The Spaces Between: Towards Private Spaces for Peer Learning

Alex and I completed our masters projects report on Thursday night. I thought I’d post the research that I did looking at information flows at the I School and the role of architecture in shaping the kinds of interactions that were taking place.

Interviewing students, staff and faculty and observing what was going down in the students lounge, the classroom, the co-lab and corridors, I concluded that the “spaces between” class play an important role in the learning experience because it is here where students can construct knowledge with their peers and practice the performance of their new identities. The fact that these spaces are located outside the purview of those in authority and that they enable students to choose who they can be intimate with is critical to the success of these spaces for enabling peer learning. In contrast, private digital spaces are unavailable to students, with the result that students attempted to use spaces like Facebook to engage with one another resulting in harms including exclusion, identity crises and self-censorship.

I noticed that the architecture of online-only educational spaces (looking at learning management systems, social media learning systems and open educational learning environments) seemed to replicate only the classroom space during class but without the protective walls available in conventional learning environments. This is really just exploratory research but I believe that the lack of nuanced social environments in online learning systems is a big part of what is leading to high dropout rates in distance/online learning programs and that we really need to build for “intimacy” rather than either the “private/closed” or “public/open” architecture characterised by current systems.

I’d love to carry on this research in the next few months but would love any feedback in the meantime.

And, yay! I’m going to graduate!

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4 thoughts on “The Spaces Between: Towards Private Spaces for Peer Learning

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. I am very isolated and busy with distance learning. FB etc isn’t the right place to connect with like minded people in this regard. Thanks for posting

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