This resource is not one to be used in a linear fashion. As soon as you have developed your vision you will need to be thinking about how you will know whether or not you have succeeded in delivering it. Moreover success is not a fixed goal – you need to consider how you will identify changing requirements and adapt to meet them.
We look at some ways you might go about doing this and some of the reflections of others who have gone through this process. Many of the projects featured in this resource were very new in 2007 and we hope to revisit them as they evolve to learn from their experiences.
How do we know it has worked?
…designing a learning space is an organic and iterative process that continues long after the space is complete.
Johnson and Lomas, 2005
Evaluating how well your project does what it set out to do is important not only for measuring its success but also to make sure that the facilities that you have developed remain fit for purpose as needs change. It is the ability to meet expressed needs that should drive the project evaluation. Ideally your pre-project work to define what facilities were needed and how they would work will have done some analysis of the requirements for the new space that you developed.
These requirements will give you an idea of what success might look like. It makes sense, therefore, in a post occupancy evaluation to consider using some of the tools that were used for the development of the project in the first place.
You also need to consider what sort of evidence can help you manage, develop, and change the use of the space over time. Clearly some of this will be quantitative – measures of levels of use etc – and some will be qualitative – how people feel about the space for example.
The first port of call for evaluation data should be data collection activities that are already taking place in the institution. Library-based projects, for example, may well have data readily available from before and after the project as libraries typically collect large amounts of user data.
Similarly several universities and colleges have ongoing student evaluation projects, and if yours does then the data and opinions collected here will be very helpful especially as these data collection departments usually operate independently of the space and service provider. This data tends to be quantitative and you will need to think about how you can add a qualitative dimension so that you get as full a picture as possible about the space is working.
Actually closing the assessment loop by putting data into decision making is not an easy thing to do – even in one’s own classroom, much less at an institutional level
Association of College and Research Libraries, 2006
What is a successful learning space?
This is discussed in Design of the Learning Space: Learning & Design Principles by Chris Johnson and Cyprien Lomas, EDUCAUSE review July/August 2005
Is a successful learning space:
- One that is being used in the way in which the designers envisioned?
- One in which the space is productively used in ways not originally envisioned?
- A space that is always busy?
- A cost-effective space?
- One that promotes deeper learning?
- One that provides the type of arrangement/amenities needed to support a learning activity?
The Learning and Skills Council suggested the following criteria should be reflected in all new projects:
- Innovation and excellence - is it an innovative and high quality new style of learning environment for the 21st century?
- Adaptability - can the design accommodate changing learning styles through flexible provision?
- Manageability - will it be easy to manage and make effective and efficient use of staff?
- Accessibility - is it an inclusive and accessible place for learning that supports engagement while providing a safe and secure environment, accessibility to learning systems, technology and resources?
- Atmosphere - does the design create a ‘feel good factor’ for learners and staff?
- Sustainability - how effectively does the design consider climate change, sustainable materials, energy efficiency, transport, physical quality of the learning environment re: daylight, air, and acoustics?