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The Learning Grid at the University of Warwick: An Innovation to Support Learning within Higher Education

Rachel Edwards

Opened in September 2004, The Learning Grid is a pioneering, flexible library space situated over an area of 1350m². Conceived and developed as a collaborative, technology rich and informal learning space, The Learning Grid aims to provide a purposeful provision with a focus on the development of study, transferable and professional skills. Pulling together library services with other support service providers, for example Careers, Academic Support and IT Services, students at the University of Warwick have been able to experiment with a variety of learning modes whilst applying a range of resources all within one facility.
     The design, ethos and service delivery model that have been created within the space naturally encourage students to engage with their studies in a different way. By creating a sense of ownership for the management of the space, users are free to experiment with the blend of resources, which are each of equal importance. Through providing a physical space that actively supports and stimulates creativity and a problem-solving approach to learning, feedback suggests that there has been a significant impact on scholarly success, opportunities for accelerated learning and the development of learner autonomy. To support activities within the space, students are employed as Student Advisors; a professional and proactive approach has been found to reduce some of the barriers to students seeking advice and guidance. The Learning Grid is allowing colleagues to explore a changing paradigm in the delivery of Library services, one which aims to support the holistic nature of the learner and provide students with opportunities to innovate and reflect on their learning experiences.
     The presentation aims to introduce participants to the concept of The Learning Grid, the unique service delivery model that has been created to support users within the environment, and more critically the impact that this innovative library facility has had on the student learning experience. Evaluation activities conducted with users of The Learning Grid have provided valuable insights into the needs of 21st Century learners within the context of higher education. In addition, The Learning Grid has begun to explore with academic colleagues the value of embedding aspects of what the physical space and its services can offer in order to facilitate the teaching and learning process both effectively and creatively. Providing the University of Warwick with an alternative to traditional library provision, dynamic opportunities to experiment with the partnership between library services and the curricula are being pursued.

Author Bio(s)

Rachel Edwards graduated in Applied Social Studies and then worked in London for the National Autistic Society. She has a PGCE in psychology and basic skills and has extensive experience in the field of learning and teaching in the post-16 sector, primarily in further education.
     During her time as Programme Area Manager for Learning Development in further education, Rachel completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Dyslexia Diagnostic Assessment and Support and her other areas of expertise include development with the ‘Skills for Life’ agenda and inclusion. Learning development - by enhancing the student learning experience through meeting individual needs - and innovative ways of delivering the curriculum, have also been significant areas of interest and development throughout her career.
     Rachel joined the University of Warwick in July 2004 specifically to manage and develop The Learning Grid. This facility has gained a national reputation as a test bed for innovation in the support of learning and has provided the university with a cornerstone for future developments.