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The New World of Learning

Higher education has undergone many upheavals that have led to an important paradigm shift: the supervised student has become an autonomous learner. How can we rethink places of learning to respond to new pedagogies and to promote the central position of the learner? To meet these challenges, we have developed a vision and methodology for participatory programming, working with professionals to define places adapted to the specifics of their teaching and embodying the values of the school.

A learning model in transition

Many studies have highlighted the weakness of a purely transmissive teaching model in the quality of learning and the assimilation of subjects. By being uniformly applied to a large number of people, this model has difficulty in taking into account the specific profile of each learner.

In order to cultivate values such as entrepreneurship, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity, teaching is reinvented and new pedagogies are developed: collaborative learning, e-learning, inverted classes, serious games, etc. The digital revolution also has a major impact on methods and places of learning. Instant access to a vast field of knowledge has increased learner autonomy by reducing moments of pure transmission and replacing them with other, more effective, pedagogies.

This availability of knowledge also has a significant impact on the time and place of learning. We can learn anytime, anywhere and in a very informal way. The erosion of traditional hierarchical structures is also profoundly changing the relationship between teachers and learners. The teacher who was the authority yesterday and is responsible for the student’s curriculum becomes a coach, a supporter for the learner who takes charge of their own learning with greater freedom.

The concept of the learning center

New pedagogies emphasize group work and learning autonomy, upstream or downstream of the course. These activities require places that are suitably adapted. The concept of the learning centre responds to these new practices. It is the place of the learner, the symbol of their autonomy and the tool of their success. It ensures at least three uses:

– Informal activity: practiced alone, in small groups, in larger groups – consulting a book or brainstorming. This dimension is crucial in the exchange of information, the resolution of problems and the promotion of innovation and creativity.

– Group work: places should be provided for group work of 2/6/10 people – with access to a screen or a board (blackboard, magnetic, interactive, etc.).

– Solo concentration work: alone, quiet, reading, writing, following a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), a SPOC (Small Private Online Course), etc.

The learning centre must be widely accessible, according to the broadest possible schedule, and must therefore constitute a programmatic unit that can function independently. The articulation of this particular place with the public space is equally crucial. Ideally, it is linked to outdoor spaces offering learners other work locations: terraces, gardens, benches, etc.

What is the impact on the design of learning places?

Today, a school is much more than a society of classes, an institution accessible from 8 am to 5 pm. It is plural, offering characterful and multiple places. It is open, promoting exchange and sharing. It puts the learner at the centre and shapes their new status. But beyond great values responding to this important paradigm shift, today’s learning places are no longer generic. They must be the result of a thorough study aimed at understanding the educational projects of the institution, the specifics of the learning methods used and their temporal interactions.

To meet the need expressed by many institutions to find a reliable partner interested in these issues, we have developed a participatory programming methodology that creates the time and place for dialogue. This exciting process was successfully carried out thanks to innovative partners who trusted us: the CPFB in Louvain-la-Neuve, the University of Brussels (ULB), the University of Mons (UMons), the University of Condorcet (HEPH), the ISIPS, the Open University and the Zénobe Gramme NPO..

Combining different functions and generations in a denser urban environment

Case study - NICE MERIDIA

Combining different functions and generations in a denser urban environment

Mobile functions

Our design starts with a process of participatory programming, together with faculty, staff and students. Any institution is multifaceted, in terms of its courses, its students, its timetables, the size of the groups and the profile of the teachers. In order to facilitate the discussion and to extract people from an abstract architectural discourse, we have created a series of graphic supports to explain our co-creation method.

We believe it is important to design a project together with the users. Traditionally, a programme is designed in the following way: Place = Function = Use(s), in order to adapt to new learning methods, we propose to remove the permanent assignment of a place to a function. Functions are mobile and users move around depending on the activity they need to perform. We therefore define places by how they accommodate different uses: Place = Uses, Function is Mobile.

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