9 May 2022

Insights on the spatial context for the Fontys ICT InnovationLab

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It is not without reason that the Fontys ICT InnovationLab is located at Strijp T, in the middle of Eindhoven and the beating heart of the Brainport region. The choice for such a location has everything to do with the changing role of education, in connection with the professional field and society. In order to map the effects and development of this, ongoing research is being done into the spatial impact of this unique hybrid learning environment on the users, but also on the neighbours. This is showing many positive signs, and there are also opportunities here.

Research at different levels

When we talk about the spatial environment of the Fontys ICT InnovationLab, three levels were considered in 2021, namely a micro, meso and macro level. Within these levels, the macro level is the Brainport Region and the meso level is the immediate surroundings at Strijp T; the neighbourhood that forms the ecosystem in which the Lab is located. The micro level, which we zoom in on in this article, is the floor itself, the learning environment in itself, which students, researchers and work field partners use. How do they experience this environment and what effect does it have on their learning process? But it also looks at what could be improved through interviews and the ongoing quality research into the quality of education.

Lively or busy?

To map out users' perceptions, surveys, interviews and focus groups were used among students, teacher-researchers and Education Execution Project Leaders (PLOUs, responsible for didactics and quality of implementation). Respondents give varying reactions about working in the Fontys ICT InnovationLab. There is much appreciation for the open space among users, the facilities and the possibility for guest lectures in the gallery. However, this dynamism and liveliness also creates noise. Researcher Jolijn Jansen emphasises: Bear in mind that after the lockdown, everyone really has to get used to an open space and being in the presence of colleagues and fellow students. Concentrating is sometimes more challenging than in your home office and it is of course also nice - not always efficient - to speak to your colleagues again whom you haven't seen for a long time. There are also comments about the lack of spaces to isolate yourself. On the other hand, there is much appreciation for the opportunities for meeting and cross-pollination."

Fixed spot in an open space

PLOUs and teacher-researchers have had an additional challenge in the spring semester; blended education. The combination of physical and online education is the reason for the need of lockable spaces for digital interaction. This is a recognisable challenge for an Open Learning Space, Jansen explains: "An open space is made for collaboration, there are plenty of project tables for project work, and the bleachers make it easy to give a presentation. This facilitates an organic demarcation, but fixed spots are still missed. Think also of a fixed spot for lectorates and partners." There is also a need for a permanent spot for project-based work and set-ups. The Lab has a clean desk policy because of the influx of users. Jansen: "For research and experimentation, this is limiting, because you have to keep rebuilding a set-up. That's where the opportunities lie for further development of the learning environment.

In spring 2021, various improvements were made, such as the layout of the lab spaces, new stickers and welcome screens. These developments were received positively. What is being looked into further is how the users' wishes for social facilities can be met; catering and a place to meet each other informally.

Finding your way around the lab

The study revealed that users sometimes have trouble finding their way around the building. Visitors also find this difficult. PLOUs would like to guide students better in the use of the building, the house rules and the possibilities. Partners are particularly looking for their 'own place'. This can increase the frequency of presence on location. There are also plenty of opportunities here, which will be further explored by the research group in the spring.

In the spring of 2021, the research into the spatial impact will be further explored; in a subsequent article, we will look at the relationship between the Fontys ICT InnovationLab and its immediate surroundings. In particular, the impact of full occupation of the building will have an impact on the perception of users. The full research report can be viewed here. For questions, please contact researcher Jolijn Jansen.

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