4th Innovative Learning Spaces Summit: Interview With The Chairman Mark Swales
1) Can you tell us about Sheffield Hallam University and their vision for the industry?
Universities shape lives. For almost two centuries, Sheffield Hallam - and its predecessor institutions - has exercised a powerful impact on the city, region, nation and world. It has an impressive history. In rapidly changing times, the demands on universities are multiplying. The world needs universities to respond quickly, applying academic excellence, innovative research and open-minded engagement in new ways to meet society’s needs.
2) In 2012, Sheffield Hallam implemented energy efficient upgrades. Can you explain those upgrades a little bit and how they positively affected the teaching and learning structure on campus?
We were one of the first University's in the world to be accredited with the ISO50001 Energy Management Standard. This requires us to continually demonstrate improvements in meeting reduction targets on our energy consumption, a great discipline to have with increased costs of utilities and developments in renewable energy sources. We have a strong focus on managing costs and building innovation into how we deliver our requirements in a sustainable way. We've adopted a wide range of technical solutions from ground source heat pumps to generating our own electricity and having a campus wide building management system in place to monitor performance.
3) What advice do you have for teachers who want to redesign their classroom but are not sure where to start or might not have the budget?
Always start with the learning outcomes you wish to achieve. Any design needs to be student centered, recognising the varying requirements from different student groups (e.g. undergraduate v postgraduate) and the diversity of the student body.
Next add the need for any space to be agile so it can be used for multiple users where practicable and affordable. Agility costs money but if it leads to higher levels of space utilisation it may in the end be a worthwhile investment to make.
4) What are some of the latest learning spaces innovations that you are excited to see enter the market?
I think that student centered learning where the academic program is a facilitator rather than pronouncer of knowledge is very exciting. The challenge is that practice is inconsistent at the moment so we are very much in a transitional phase. The potential for digital learning both on and off campus is both exciting and terrifying as the potential and impact are yet to be quantified. That is why the summit is so useful because you get to hear about how these challenges are being met globally.
5) What do you expect from the 4th Innovative Learning Spaces Summit?
I am hoping to gain useful insights into learning space developments from the wide variety of University systems that we have the privilege of hearing from at the summit. This is my fourth and I always learn so much about developments around the world, which inspire my university and me to challenge existing practices.