Utilisation of informal learning spaces in NTU

Principal Investigator: Peter Looker, Head, Teaching, Learning and Pedagogy Division
Co-Investigators: Jason Lee Wen Yau, Research Scientist, Centre for Research and Development in Learning (CRADLE@NTU); A/P Tan Seng Chee, Deputy Director, CRADLE@NTU; Kristen Sadler, Research Director, Strategy and Biosciences; Goh Su Nee, Head – Facilities Planning, NTU Libraries
Research Associate: Jaime Koh, CRADLE@NTU
Funding Agency: CRADLE@NTU start-up grant
Research on education has extensively documented students’ use of formal learning spaces in higher learning institutes, despite the fact that a typical tertiary student would reportedly spend only less than 8% of his time in these learning-purposed spaces in a lifetime. However, there remains a dearth of literature on students’ utilisation of informal learning spaces, which nevertheless almost always consume majority of University campuses’ land areas.
The Centre for Research and Development in Learning (CRADLE@NTU), in collaboration with Student Life, Libraries, and Teaching, Learning, and Pedagogy Division (TLPD), Nanyang Technological University, spearheads a research initiative set in the University’s 200-hectare residential garden campus in Jurong – the largest in Singapore – to address the above research gap.
Dubbed by the Times Higher Education as the world’s fastest-rising young university, NTU has devoted bullish investments for recreational spaces that can foster multidisciplinary pursuits in its Singapore main campus. Just recently, a breakthrough architecture by celebrated English designer Thomas Heathereick for “cross-pollination of ideas” across disciplines called The Hive; and a lifestyle hub featuring a shopping complex, eateries, and performance spaces, were added to the University’s landmarks to encourage both academic and non-academic engagements in this research-driven institution.
But how do casual spaces actually add value to the learning outcomes of students within and beyond the University? This research is aimed to answer such enquiry in hopes to further inform the design and affordances of informal learning spaces in NTU and other research-oriented institutions.
The research adopts a grounded approach using field observations and focus group discussions with students to understand their usage patterns, attitudes toward, and preferences for informal learning spaces. Outcomes from this study will provide a framework for NTU and other learning institutions to design learning spaces that will help maximise students’ learning.