Innovative higher education learning spaces, can they curate ‘the employability skills gap’ ?


Leanne Rose-Munro
Director,STEMM Hub and Life Science Research development.
The University of Melbourne


1 Learning Units (LU)

How applies to HSW:

At the end of the course participants will be able to take innovative best practice methodology and tools and begin to apply them in design development and delivery of innovative learning space projects. In addition participants will have gained an insight into higher education learning space evaluation strategy keeping them up-to-date with emergent new knowledge on building fit-for-purpose highly effective learning spaces.


This session is an interactive case study of a newly built $200M University Learning and Teaching building. Commentators report that transformational change in Universities are driven in part by an employability skills gap, with critics reporting that higher education institutions have failed to impart the necessary business and soft skills for graduate employment in economies that are increasingly complex and competitive (Collet, Hine, du Plessis 2014). It is imperative that all universities stakeholders respond to transformational change and the development of innovative learning spaces with a clear vision of the expected return on investment, and build campus infrastructure with confidence that the physical design affordances will have a great impact upon enabling student success. This session explores the prototyping and delivery of a newly built $200M University Learning and Teaching building. The methodology is grounded in an emerging higher education learning space evaluation model that is underpinned by a desire to build innovative spaces that inspire creative learning and teaching in learning spaces that spark ‘student agency’, defined as the power to act and take control of their own learning journey. Intentional design attributes in the new building aim to curate the employability skills gap through the delivery of a platform that is a safe place for students to explore the skills of collaboration, communication, empathy and curiosity. In this session you will be asked to follow a design thinking process and debate the return on investment of the prototype process that occurred from ideation to manifestation of the building. Critical questions and prompts include:

  • What is the value-proposition for a student of coming to campus to learn?
  • Is the ’employability skills gap’ a perception or reality?
  • Can learning spaces mediate learning and teaching behaviour, and if so what evidence is valued in design decision-making?
  • Is ‘student voice’ informed voice?
  • What is the role of ‘teaching behaviours’ and pedagogy in innovative learning spaces, and collectively are these the make-or-break of a students’ on-campus experience?
  • Is prototyping innovative learning spaces at University worthy of the investment?
  • Very little research exists on next-generation higher education learning environments, this session offers a methodological approach and concept model that grounds the development of learning space evaluation tools that primarily aim to ensure learning principles can be met in fit-for-purpose spaces.
Learning Objectives:
  • Learning how to develop a set of innovative learning principles that align to future ready employability skills;
  • Learn how to develop a set of design principles that align to innovative learning principles
  • Formulate a prototype project programme that aligns learning space design attributes to learning principles;
  • Learn new methods of evaluating higher education learning spaces
Primary Competency:

Design of Educational Facilities: Acts as a resource to the design team in providing ongoing guidance and support to ensure that the emerging and ultimate design aligns with the established community vision, education goals, future programming, written design standards, best/next practices and education policy.

Primary Domain:

Context: Content of this session/workshop will focus on the circumstances that form the setting for the design and construction of specific learning environments and characteristics that distinguishes the project from other applications.

Secondary Domain:

Learning: Content of this session/workshop will focus on how we learn and/or how the physical environment responds specifically to various methods of instruction, pedagogies, learning styles, or learning trends.

Additional information:

Through an interactive case study approach demonstrate an emerging innovative learning space evaluation model and tools for creating exemplar higher education learning spaces that create opportunity for university transformational change