Is it time to redesign the environment as well as the learning?
My vision of face to face learning events of the future is not a ‘classroom’ but more a social meeting area. If we are going to embrace the change in learning that has to happen and soon, we should also rethink the environment our learners visit when attend a face to face learning event.
To me, the word classroom conjures up a memory of chairs all in a row. Sometimes, these chairs may be locked together so we can’t move them. Some of them have little tables attached. Have you ever tried to sit at these strange contraptions? For me they are certainly not comfortable and very restrictive not to mention difficult to adjust my seating or cross my legs. Then there are those conference chairs. I have short legs – not too short – I think I’m average height at 5 foot 3 inches but often find that the majority of conference / classroom / training event chairs leave me with legs a-dangle cutting off the circulation. If I wear my killer heels this is slightly better but then by the end of the day I can’t walk!
The alternative to the rows upon rows of lecture-style layout in corporate training rooms is the ‘horseshoe’ style with the premise of making the experience much more friendly allowing the trainer more opportunity to become more accessible to their learners and allow learners to see each other, thereby interacting more easily. A lot better than the first option but the trainer often still stands at the front ‘in charge’. With the barrier of tables it can be tricky to break down the walls of formality. I’ve tried pulling a chair round and sitting at the front. This feels odd but a little less formal. I’ve tried sitting on the table but then I’m almost on top of some people and a little distant from others. It’s also uncomfortable (short legs and no circulation again).
If I had my way, I would redisign the environment so it’s no longer like a classroom but an inviting area where learners feel at ease on a range of comfortable chairs and sofas, where the the trainer becomes a facilitator. There will be coffee tables and any slides are viewed on a flat screen TV from a laptop. Individuals will have a much more comfortable experience and a more informal approach to learning. Where computer based activities are required, of course safe ergonomic considerations are needed but I feel this would also benefit from a more informal feel to it.
Considering that with more emphasis these days on blended learning, where we will be using face to face events more appropriately and collaboratively I think it’s time to adapt the environment accordingly.