Monash Teaching and Learning Building

The Education Building is a new state-of-the-art, purpose-designed, building at the heart of the Monash Campus. It seems to be approximately three time bigger than the Oculus Building in surface area, and three stories tall. Most significantly, it is home to the Office of Learning and Teaching (including the Monash Academy, the teaching enhancement unit, and the Education Innovations Group who support learning tech), who share a floor of the building with the Faculty of Education. The OLT has excellent office space, and its own dedicated facilities, including a high-specification teaching space and a microstudio set up for easy, self-service, video production. They were also actively involved in the design of the learning spaces in the building, and used design thinking prototyping methods.

The building is furnished and equipped to a very high standard. This includes one more conventional large conference-style room (above), which is especially luxurious (note the lighting). But most of the rooms are more innovative. They all share a spaciousness – seating density is lower than British universities.

The teaching rooms in the building include a full range of sizes, from small meeting rooms to large lecture theatres. They are well equipped, and feature many writable surfaces – including tables that act as whiteboards. Tables and chairs are all equipped with wheels, which along with the spaciousness of the rooms, allows for easy reconfigurability. Décor is bright, modern and well-thought-out, with attention to detail (demonstrated in conversations with the Education Innovations team, they have a very designerly approach). The spaces were developed through an iterative open prototyping process, giving staff and students real opportunities to shape the evolving designs.

The lecture theatres are designed to support peer-to-peer collaborative active learning. Clustered seating, with shared tables (and power sockets), is the default. Chairs and tables all have wheels. Chairs include a small platform for storing bags underneath.

Writable table, and chair with integrated bag storage.

We also found that a mix of furniture styles is common, with softer seating appearing alongside more conventional furniture in medium sized teaching rooms.

The big lecture theatres feature presentation tables at the front – large writable surfaces with a roof-mounted visualiser. Drawings, texts and objects may be placed on the tables and the visualiser used to display them on the big screen. The visualiser may be moved around, zoomed in and out, as needed. The presentation table also has drawers with useful equipment, including iPads charged-up and ready to use.

In smaller rooms, areas of wall space are marked with subtle corner markers, showing where a visualiser may capture and project onto the big screen. Rooms are equipped with a Solstice-style wireless projection system called MirrorOp (however, I couldn’t get it to work, even with the assistance of an AV technician).

One of the larger lecture theatres is constructed as a “lecture in the round” approach, with the audience surrounding the lecturer, who has a writable presentation table from which to operate.

Lecture live capture is used by default – at Monash the emphasis seems to be on live streaming of lectures more than recording. They are moving to Panopto, away from Echo 360, as they are unhappy with the service and attitude of the Echo 360 company – they do not like the way Echo 360 have been trying to expand the platform towards being a VLE, locking-in academic content and student data.

Videoconferencing facilities seem to be available in most rooms, using the Zoom system, which has become part of the culture at Monash (we heard it casually referred to in several conversations, it is just normal to use it).