Serendipitous Learning Potential through Intentionally Designed Learning Spaces with Eric Kunnen

Serendipitous Learning Potential through Intentionally Designed Learning Spaces with Eric Kunnen

This post is the result of a collaborative effort by ThinkIn coordinator Gerald Rhead, Eric KunnenDr. Julie FunkRashad Muhammad & Dave Goodrich

Blackboard- portraits and cap and gown

Eric Kunnen, Associate Director of eLearning and Emerging Technologies at Grand Valley State University

The Hub’s January ThinkIn found us partnering with folks from the MSU Library, where we had a rich conversation with Eric Kunnen and several others on his team. Kunnen is Associate Director of eLearning and Emerging Technologies at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in Allendale, Michigan. His primary role involves collaborating on and supporting distance learning initiatives at the university while also exploring future trends in emerging technologies in teaching and learning. This post is a collaborative reflection on and expansion of our original conversation, which left us with a lot to consider.

The purpose of our ThinkIns is to connect with interesting and innovative people with expertise in learning and technology. This series of conversations is intended to improve our market intelligence and expand our thinking, reciprocating the same benefits for our collaborator. We use a thematic focus as our starting point, but that focus doesn’t confine our discussion to one topic – it often organically branches off in related directions based on the interests of the participants. The theme for our discussion with Kunnen was “Serendipitous Learning Potential through Intentionally Designed Learning Spaces.”

GVSU’s learning spaces

Grand Valley State University’s Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons opened in the summer of 2013 with research-based learning space design driving their decisions in the project. They have intentionally provided flexible spaces for students to learn or host events that range from rooms for being alone, together with a group, quiet and contemplative, collaborative and active, indoor and outdoor options with great views.

Kunnen provided a virtual tour of a few of the spaces in the library, including the Atomic Object Technology Showcase. The showcase is an example of the intentional infusing of technology into the library. In short, the showcase is an immersive and engaging space for faculty, staff, and students to discover, learn, and share how innovative emerging technologies can enhance teaching and improve student learning at GVSU.

MSU’s learning spaces

A few of us over here in Sparty land were able to also give a mini-virtual tour of a Room for Engaged and Active Learning (MSU REAL Spaces), the Make Central makerspace in the Main Library on Michigan State’s campus, The Hatch makerspace right across the street from MSU’s East Lansing campus, and even had a mini tour of one of the learning spaces over in the College of Education in Erickson supported by their Design Studio.

Check it out

You can watch the original conversation with Kunnen in its entirety here, followed below by reflections from several participants.

Eric Kunnen

What a great conversation! It was a pleasure connecting and collaborating with MSU. I believe that we are a stronger together and there is great synergy when we come together to work to invent the future. We were impressed with the unique active learning classrooms, the Hatch and the makerspace resources that are available at Michigan State.

As teaching and learning continues to be transformed by technology, we are looking to continue the momentum that the showcase has generated here at GVSU, while collaborating internally across the university – and with our new colleagues and friends at Michigan State!

Dr. Julie Funk

I found the ThinkIn valuable as I was able to see spaces developed from a student-centered perspective. The College is playing with ideas regarding how to provide students more opportunities for active, hands-on-learning experiences and what those “spaces” look like in physical and virtual environments.  I will plan to integrate some of these ideas into our process of developing new curriculum.

Dr. Julie Funk is the Associate Dean for Academic Programs and Student Affairs in MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Rashad Muhammad

Although Eric was the featured guest it was clear that we were all learning from each other. I really enjoyed seeing how GVSU created a user experience that was “radically student centered”. This was reflected in the design of the furniture which was highly mobile and easily transportable and it was also visible in the policy decision to allow students configure the furniture layout in any way they desired; barring any safety hazards. This philosophy carried over into their decision not to post restrictive signage in the library (E.g. “Don’t eat in the library”). These carefully thought out decisions all seemed to to operate under the understanding that the more control we try to impose over student environments, the less engaging they become. Even something as simple as sign can serve as reminder to our students that they are not in control.

An unexpected outcome of the ThinkIn for me was how much I learned about the technology that is available right here on MSU’s campus. I was unaware that Double 2 and Kubi telepresence robots were being used in some classes to create a shared classroom experience for online students and on-campus students. Overall, learned a lot from the presenters and the participants. It was a great way to think outside of the box, without having to leave the box.

Stay tuned

We hope you have enjoyed this conversation as much as we have. We look forward to having more of these. Be sure to stay tuned about similar events, student-led podcasts, and cross-disciplinary happenings in the near future. Hope you join us at the next one!

What about you?

What questions or ideas did this ThinkIn and the follow-up reflections generate for you? Are you involved in similar learning space design initiatives? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.



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