I chose to observe the CERAS atrium for my learning space.
What do learners do there?
This space serves many functions for different learners. Some sit quietly at tables, often on their computers, reading or writing papers. Others use the space to make phone calls or have skype conversations. The space is also often used to host meetings, with a large number of people sitting around a table discussing. Additionally, the space also is used to host functions, so people might be eating food or mingling with others.
What is the environment like?
The space is a massive open area, 5 stories tall, with offices and classrooms surrounding it on every level. A tinted glass roof lets in some light, but it often masks the brightness of the outdoors. The furniture varies from round tables with chairs surrounding, to smaller groups of chairs set up like living rooms or lounges. All of this can also change depending on how the space is being used, so sometimes the setup is completely different.
The noise level can vary from a hushed silence to a dull roar, dependent again on what is happening in the space at any given time. Sometimes there is a massive amount of activity and people, whereas early in the morning or late at night, the space can be nearly empty.
How does it help people learn?
It’s questionable whether the space helps people learn or not. I find it very difficult to learn in the space when it’s too active, but others seem to thrive in that environment. Perhaps the best attribute of the space is that it has various levels of activity to fit many people’s learning styles. Unfortunately, this activity is consistent, and you never know exactly what state the space will be in when you’d like to use it. That said, it does seem to facilitate connections well, as it is easy to run into someone unexpected in the space. Although it may sound odd, I’m curious if the space was actually designed with learning as one of its goals…