R. Støckert, J.B. Stav, K. Bjørkli

HiST Sør-Trøndelag University College (NORWAY)
The article reports experience related to design, development and usage of a new flexible learning environment were students use a range of learning activities in order to collaborate in solving whole tasks or exercises as a joint team. The design takes into account both the physical and technical environment to enhance and facilitate students’ collaboration and communication, as well as to provide regular feedback to the students.
The technical equipment (Toolbox) consists of interactive whiteboards, computers with a web-camera and sound-system for videoconference/skype or other collaboration methods, like screen sharing. Lab equipment is connected to computers through USB, and the measurements can be displayed on the Interactive whiteboard. Several types of software are installed to simplify the collaboration process. The content of different interactive whiteboards may be shared and viewed by different groups/users.

In addition we use IPAD to control the computers and launch any document or application, and annotate over them at any time.The technical infrastructure enables the student to use his/her own mobile devices (smartphone, laptop, tablet) as a part of the technical toolbox that is available in the workspace. Their devices may be used in online student response systems or to responds to assessments by use of modern mobile devices. The devices can also be displayed at the interactive whiteboard for presentation (or intercommunication between the students (social media))
One of the major challenges is to change the learning environment from an ordinary teacher-student lecture, to a set of separated workspaces with tools designed for a variety of group activities. To obtain this flexibility, several factors regarding the physical/architectural and technical design of the workspace must be considered. In addition, the different types of learning scenarios and activities must be defined.

The article will report the experiences obtained after two years of usage in various types of courses. This includes language training, physics for engineers, mathematics and social sciences. Based on these experiences we have defined a set of critical success factors.
• Room design/layout, colour, chairs, air, acoustics, HVAC etc
• Flexibility
• Technical design/infrastructure and equipment such as smartboard, Wi-FI network, camera, connection for pc/smartphone to the projector
• Student training and motivation.
• Teacher training and motivation.

Results achieved:
• Students report that it is fun to attend courses that utilize the lab
• The digital learning lab is an attractive area which the students use outside the lessons
• Students collaborate in solving the whole task as a team, instead of distributing the work and solve the components separately
• Students communication is improved
• Curtains are used to separate each single group, whereby the whole lab may be interchanged into a digital classroom within seconds.
• Use of curtains reduces the noise in the room, whereby students may discuss, interact and collaborate as in a normal discussion
• The lab is intuitive easy to use by the students
The article will at the end describe how does students use and operate the new learning spaces.