Saturday, 21 June 2008

Learning Hub in Jessop's Edwardian Wing?

Last Tuesday 17 June, together with colleagues from ELTC, MASH, MLTC, LeTS and Estates, I attended a meeting chaired by Paul White at which he outlined the back-history and proposed future of the Learning Hub Project. Originally conceived as a new build, the present plan is now to pitch for money and space in the Edwardian Wing of Jessops hospital (the bit sandwiched between Broad Lane and the original Victorian hospital building on Leavygreave Rd which is destined to be inhabited by the Music Dept).

If the funds are secured, the renovation of the Grade 2 listed building and addition of a smaller new build to the east/north-east is proposed to result in the creation of at least four key spaces (working from memory as my notes are presently elsewhere):
  1. A fancy new build entrance and executive teaching area for CPD and other industry-standard events off to the right (more specifically, a "Harvard style lecture theatre"; though I'm yet to establish exactly what that might mean);
  2. On the ground floor of the Edwardian Wing, one or two large open access areas currently conceived as communal spaces for students and others to gather, work individually or in groups, have access to certain specialist IT packages etc. which cannot be provided across campus for licencing reasons (e.g. some of the mindmapping, maths & stats software, and perhaps some more specific software required by PG students in partic. disciplines - may be fancy GIS packages for example?); this could be an ideal space for the development of self-help study groups, and for projects like TASH, MASH and the Sheffield Graduate Award to have permanent display areas in which to provide physical access to study and support materials and resources of one form or another;
  3. On the middle floor, 4-6 seminar rooms (min. capacity 24), plus a few small breakout rooms for one-2-one tutorials etc., plus specialist language labs; the teaching rooms would be pooled, probably with first dibs for MASH, ELTC and MLTC, and the possibility that they could also be open to TILL classes in the evenings;
  4. On the top (attic) floor, office space for MASH, ELTC and MLTC staff.
Volunteers for an "advisory group" were sought, and I have now put my name forward as the TASH link person for the time being. If this development comes off, it will provide an important and much more coherent physical presence for many of the face-to-face skills enhancement services already offered across the institution ... and it also has the potential to provide a physical form to the TASH self-help, self-analysis, easy-access philosophy. In terms of time-frames, if we are very lucky and the money doesn't go elsewhere then we'd be looking at a facility opening on the site in autumn 2010.

As with the discussion of labels below, however, it is essential that this building is seen as a hub for all, at all stages of their learning careers, and not a triage station for learners who don't quite fit the norm ... I'm confident that this is an obstacle that can be surmounted - but that the key is likely to be getting the ground floor right. The fact that Paul White has pulled TASH in at such an early stage in our existence is also very welcome and indicative of the role we may be able to play in helping to lend a little more coherence to the many very valuable services and resources that currently exist scattered across campus, not just online but in the real world too.

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