The Innovative learning Spaces Conference took place in Barcelona over two days in September 2018.  It was the third conference which brought together a truly international audience from a wide range of professional backgrounds with a common interest in the development of innovative learning spaces.

I had attended the previous editions of the conference which for me proved that the interest in designing innovative and engaging spaces to support students’ learning capabilities on physical and virtual learning environments is getting more and more important. By fostering innovation, universities are seeking to enhance students’ higher education experience and make the most out of their new and existing infrastructure to provide the best possible learning environment. 

I was honored to be asked to chair this latest event which saw 16 countries represented in the audience from 65 different institutions and architectural practices. The audience consisted of Vice Provost's, Registrar's, Heads of Teaching and Learning, Directors of Estates and Facilities, Liberians, Professors and Directors of Talent to name just a few of the job titles.

The key discussion points included pedagogical approaches linked to learning space planning and design, driving innovation by engaging stakeholders and forming partnerships, estate transformation, and learning experience design, teaching millennials and coping with digitalization challenges and how to deliver meaningful engagement with stakeholders in learning space design.

The speakers came from around the world so over the intense two days you really do get a sense of how institutions from across the globe are approaching the same challenges.  Seeing the real-life examples of innovative learning spaces from so many countries was inspirational, to say the least.


Highlights over the two days included an inspirational presentation from Fiona Carden, Director of Learning & Innovation Co-Lab Exeter on developing learning spaces for people with complex needs. She said that this is a time when we need to be bold, courageous and willing to experiment with new ways of doing things. We need to share ideas, try them out, fail fast, learn and adapt to make the changes that will enable people and our community to flourish".

Susanne Dau, Docent & Head of the Research Programmes from University College Northern Denmark presented the findings of research she has undertaken on the impact of innovative learning spaces. She described the disruption and disturbances as challenges in blended learning environments and the role of embodied habit orientation.  This latter point describes the resistance to change that comes from peoples habits which can be very difficult to break.

Melody Bowdon, Executive Director from the University of Central Florida presented their approach to engagement with stakeholders in learning space design.  The presentation showed a very clear route map for the processes of designing, using and assessing the impact of new learning spaces.  Professor Christopher Abraham Chief Executive Officer and Head of Dubai Campus for S P Jain School of Global Management in Spain delivered a captivating session on how technology and innovative pedagogy creates complexities between the interaction of space design and learning and the importance of learner-centered approach on the design process.

In summary, the event provided an opportunity to hear from sixteen expert speakers from across the world as well as a number of panel and interactive workshop sessions over the two days and an excellent networking wine tasting and dinner overlooking the fabulous beach in Barcelona! In terms of meeting delegate expectations, they identified a number of outcomes they were hoping to achieve in their learning.  The expectations and feedback from the  delegates were as follows:

  1. How can we engage with stakeholders in the design of innovative learning spaces? The delegates felt there were some excellent examples of different approaches to this which they could deploy back in their own institutions.
  2. How to create impact assessments to build a compelling business case for change? So we heard about different types of feedback mechanisms but more needs to be done accessing research findings for a wider audience.
  3. How to create learning spaces that have a positive impact on learning outcomes for all students? We heard multiple examples of different innovative learning spaces and the challenges of implementation but also the success stories and lessons learned.
  4. Having the opportunity to meet new people with a global view of the processes and approaches to delivering great learning spaces. Everyone felt they achieved this through the variety of presentations, workshops, panel discussions and the networking opportunities over the two days.


Following the great success of three last editions, Innovative Learning Spaces Summit will be heading back to sunny Barcelona for the 4th Annual Summit on September 19-20. You can find out more info & request your free brochure today.