University of Adelaide Site Visit

Published: Wednesday 4 September 2013

Today’s universities operate in an environment where students increasingly have the capacity to pursue their studies anywhere and anytime. While this responds to a great number of ‘net gen’ learning traits, it does not necessarily foster the development of the critical interpersonal skills required for the collaborative and social nature of the contemporary workplace. 

27 people went on tour of the University's new centres for informal student learning and the recently constructed laboratories known as The Braggs.

Two new learning hub facilities create attractive environments for informal and collaborative learning, each with a different focus. Hub Central is the central hub for the University. Students from all disciplines mix in the range of innovative and accessible learning spaces, linked to the central Library. The Pulteney Street Hub focuses on the specific needs of the Faculty of the Professions, including first year student retention and the accommodation of Postgraduate students, offering a range of open access but also swipe card access environments. Expanding on the social nature of the Hubs, the University of Adelaide's specialist spaces also reflect an increase in collaboration.

The Learning Hubs to provide student support are open 24 hours a day and provide integrated services, for study, counselling, health and general advice. Two existing spaces have been renovated and extended to provide modern, bright, light and colourful formal and informal spaces for local and international students. Casual furniture, food services, desktop computers and spaces for individual and group learning as well as socialising are provided. A retail consultant was brought in to help develop the ideas and students were paid to be part of the planning process and subsequently to identify any required changes arising from post-occupancy reviews. Features include a "follow me" swipe card for printing, a help desk on each level, and meeting rooms that can be booked.

The Mawson Laboratories First Year Experience is a refurbishment of a 1950s building at the University of Adelaide, designed to enhance the experience of first year Geology students. It involved the transformation of a series of existing office spaces and small classrooms into a 100-seat formal teaching laboratory and an adjacent informal learning area. This area was a model for the recent learning hubs.

On the lower level the Mawson museum with its rock samples and images of the exploration expeditions has been retained and improved and is an integral part of the centre.

Specialist facilities such as laboratories are becoming more versatile to accommodate multiple disciplines, flexible timetabling and asynchronous activity by multiple groups. This 'super-lab' approach is exemplified in the new Braggs complex. 

The Braggs complex also provides an excellent example of creative redesign. It was recently awarded the Jack McConnell Award for Public Architecture in the SA Chapter AIA awards. 

Features include the capacity for two laboratories to be opened into one,. Extensive use is made of ICT including the AB Tutor which enables the supervisor to see what students are working on at any time, and a document camera which projects images clearly to work spaces. Engagement with the users has been the key to redeveloping these areas and the students appreciate being part of the process.

Our University guide, Harald Baulis , Manager, Strategy & Space Planning, provided an excellent tour of the University's facilities. Thanks also to Ana Sala- Oviedo from Rubida Research.