Collaborating on informal learning spaces

You may have seen me mention some rewarding projects I have been able to contribute to since becoming more involved in social media. Here’s one example – a working party on virtual and physical spaces for informal learning with Melbourne Uni. I’ll be contributing to the first collaborative meeting tomorrow around segmentation – creating and optimising informal learning spaces for individual (personal) and wide (generic) segments.

Anyway…this is what the project is all about.


It is not enough to build a university around the specialized needs of its academic programs; it also needs a collection of distinct gathering places that catalyze interaction and bring the campus to life -Wallsjasper, 2008

The project on Virtual and Physical Learning Spaces is a collaboration between IBM and The University of Melbourne and is investigating informal learning environments that are critical to the role and life of the University.

Alongside the University’s formal teaching spaces and buildings are informal spaces – inside, outside and virtual – that are often open to the public and support a range of learning activities, from individual study and informal group-work to socio-cultural activities such as exhibitions, cultural and community events. These activities are intrinsic to staff and student experiences at the University and are vital to the University’s role as a public education institution.

In December 2007, the project’s working group came together to consider a central question:
How can virtual and physical spaces be designed, integrated, used and understood to better support informal learning?

A Think Tank, comprising key university staff and senior IBM personnel, identified six ‘critical issues’ that should be considered in the project. These issues provide the foundation for reflection and discussion over the coming months of the project and are:

  • Architectural Determinism
  • Fragmentation and Recombination
  • Segmentation and Integration
  • Community Engagement
  • Teaching and Learning Boundaries
  • Control

In November, each Working Party will be invited to present at a Public Forum on Informal Learning Places jointly hosted by IBM and The University of Melbourne. It is expected the ideas presented in the Public Forum could be used by different communities in the own practices and endeavours.