Tag Archives: informal learning

What makes an informal learning space?

Deborah Harrop and Bea Turpin

Parallel session 1, Short Paper 1.4

Short Abstract
This session will summarise research which aimed to investigate: What makes successful higher education informal learning spaces? The objectives were: to determine learners’ behaviours, attitudes and preferences in relation to where, what, when, how and why they use informal learning spaces at SHU; and enable evidence-based redevelopment of learning spaces.

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Detailed Outline
This session will share research which sought to understand ‘What makes successful higher education informal learning spaces?’ and manifested itself in the redevelopment of informal learning spaces in the Learning Centres and the ongoing development of campus spaces at SHU. Findings from the aforementioned primary, empirical research culminated in the creation of a typology of nine learning space preference attributes and the assertion that all nine attributes must be given due consideration when designing and evaluating informal learning spaces. The typology is underpinned by a theoretical framework derived from existing published literature and is drawn from the disciplines of learning theory, placemaking and architecture and the need for an understanding of the synergy between the three. The typology of learning space preference attributes will be shared, alongside examples of how it led to the implementation of real changes to learning spaces at SHU.

Jamieson (2007) calls for new spaces that challenge the status quo and the ambition is for the typology to be used as a partial response to this. To fully respond, it is hoped this research will join up with research on formal and virtual learning spaces and in doing so ensure the construction of interrelated, complimentary and coherent SHU learning spaces.

JAMIESON, P. with contributions from MIGLIS, P., HOLM, J. and PEACOCK, J. (2007). Creating new generation learning environments on the university campus. Adelaide, South Australia, Woods Bagot Research Press.

Using smart phones and tablets to support learning (2014)

Anne Nortcliffe & Andrew Middleton

If 87% of students own a smart device (Armstrong, 2012) and over 1,300 members of staff have connected their personal devices to the University’s email server, it is likely that the way staff and students engage with life, their practice and study is changing too.

In January 2014 university-wide surveys of staff and students were conducted about their usage of personal smart devices. Respondents were invited to describe how their devices are enhancing their practice.

The results are being analysed, however based upon earlier work (e.g. Nortcliffe et al., 2013; Nortcliffe & Middleton, 2012) a steady growth in the use of devices like iPhones and iPads by staff and students is expected.

Many will not use the devices directly for teaching and learning, but will use them to manage all aspects of their life or to make arrangements with peers to do course work. Some will have changed important aspects of their academic practice or study life: using email, accessing Blackboard, for example. Some will report using photographs taken on their smart phones or audio feedback recorded as they mark work on their tablets.

For others, smart technology will have changed teaching and learning significantly. Many staff report using the Socrative app to muster student feedback in presentations, for example. Other affordable apps are being used to provide augmented reality simulations. Other innovative students report using video apps to record and post reflective commentaries. Social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and blogging is now a regular part of a student’s informal or formal engagement with university life.

Our previous research has shown that students are embracing the smart devices to support their learning by seeking out useful apps to help them be more organised, productive, collaborative and scholarly (Woodcock et al., 2012a; Woodcock, 2012b).

The 2014 survey of staff and students will create a rich picture to inspire others and to help the University meet their needs.

Hand outs will be provided to share good, emerging practice.


232 – Hallam Award- from skillset to graduateness – Simona Andreea Pantiru, Arpit Sheth, Simon Kilpatrick, Charmaine Myers

Employability is considered to be ‘a set of achievements (…) that make graduates more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations’ (Yorke, 2004). Our study aims to provide a better understanding of the experiences of Sheffield Hallam University students involved in the Hallam Award (Hallam Union, 2013). This award designed for SHU students not only demonstrates their employability skills, but also offers the prestige of an award that allows them to present themselves as different from other graduates new to the job market. However, participation in the award is relatively low with an average of 300 students taking part each year and only a third of those students complete the award. This research will shed some light on the perceived advantages and disadvantages of an employability award at student level, and make recommendations for future selection criteria and restrictions in categories. It is recognised by employers that graduates need to enter the job market not only with a good degree, but also with a developed set of employability skills (CBI, 2009).  The methodology used will be both quantitative and qualitative and evidence will be collected in the form of an online questionnaire and semi-structured interviews with students with the collaboration of the Student Union. After data collection, data will be analysed using quantitative SPSS analysis and also thematic analysis for qualitative data. It is anticipated that by gaining an understanding for low participation in the Hallam award, proposals can be made to foster student involvement and completion of the award. And in doing so, facilitate students in developing their competitiveness in the labour market, supporting the recent Wilson Review recommendations “to develop and record students’ employability, enterprise and entrepreneurial skills” (Wilson, 2012).

232 hallam award