Digital Learning Environments

/Digital Learning Environments
Digital Learning Environments 2017-08-20T14:21:32+00:00

Digital Learning Environments

Through the intensive spread of mobile devices with Internet access, such as smartphones or tablets, new prospects for learning, independent of location and time are created. Learning in the mobile era presumes the interaction with other learners, tutors, and experts with the help of social media. This expands learning in traditional arrangements and makes the learner a co-creator of knowledge, e.g. through web 2.0 technology. Thereby, opportunities are shaped to allow learners examine complex contents in authentic situations.
Through a multitude of collaboration and research with schools and universities, we investigate in the range of possibilities of the so-called mobile learning, for years already. Here, the central ongoing questions concern how learning activities can be aligned with the help of mobile gadgets, and which interfaces (the visualization of the various functionalities of the mobile devices) are most appropriate.

Physical Learning Spaces


Physical Learning Spaces

In the modern knowledge- and information societies, education receives a broader and broader importance.

Livelong learning became the very foundation of societal development. Hence, the relevance of education- and cultural institutions as learning spaces have received a new meaning. Here, we are not just dealing with learning settings and their didactic-methodical design, but moreover with the support of informal, spacial learning. More and more education- and cultural institutions have begun representing learning services also spacially. Here, the physical space is of central concern. However, it is rarely seen as a vital dimension of teaching- and learning setting design.



The Learning-Research-Center is dealing with the question, how physical learning spaces will look like in the future. Spacial organization, or the organisational structure of learning landscapes – be it in communal or scientific campus contexts – are especially considered in view of building-, special-, furnishing concepts, integration-, and cooperation structures, etc. The design of learning spaces receives a greater relevance in respect to different access- and learning methods, in schools, adult education centers, universities, and libraries.

The Learning-Research-Center has focused on this subject in the form of a laboratory setting. For example, the project “LearnerLab” researched flexible spacial stagings for learning. The foundation for this research cooperations with the company VS Vereinigte Spezialmöbelfabriken from Tauberbischofsheim was a collaboratively conceptualized LearnerLab at Media University Stuttgart, which was in the center of scientific activities from 2011 to 2014. From 2015, an even larger area will be available for the HdM-Lernwelt, where the research will be continued.


De Tweede Verdieping in Nieuwegein

De Tweede Verdieping in Nieuwegein


The Science of Effective Learning Spaces is a web site by George Lucas Educational Foundation, doing research and showing examples of the future of schools, learning, pedagogics and learning spaces as well.

The article The Science of Effective Learning Spaces gives interesting and inspiring information the influence of light and seating Arrangements on students´ cognitive performance.

Project report on learning space concepts

Project report on learning space concepts

Cross-linguistic research project compares and contrasts learning space definitions and concepts

von Stefan Volkmann

Independent of institutional or linguistic contexts, the scientific discourse on learning spaces is missing a clear vocabulary in many regards (Volkmann & Stang, 2015). In order to build a foundation from which solutions can emerge, a research project assessed the broad spectrum of terms and concepts in the English and German language areas.

The report shows a ‘content-form’ scheme to be the basic structure of most terms. Hence, design-wise and from didactic perspectives, there is a structured approach towards reading and understanding learning space terms and definitions. Only the organizational dimension of the learning environment cannot be decoded therefrom. In general, unequal usage of the terms makes a denotative definition difficult.


Oftentimes, however, they are treated and interpreted very similarly, across language and countries. On the contrary, many concepts hint towards an expert discourse and terminology, which requires an antonym for public-oriented naming and branding of learning spaces.

To allow scientific systematization, this study reveals the connotative definitions and usage varieties of popular terms. German and English terms have been analyzed, including arrangement, setting, space, place, environment, landscape, world, point, atelier, studio, lab, campus, maker and hackerspace, coworking, mediatheque, center, commons, hubs, and individual names for learning centers. The scope of the report is targeting the German community, however, English-speaking sources have been used extensively. An extensive bibliography links prominent literature citing, using, and interpreting the above terms.


Publication release: Space for Education

Publication release

Space for Education

Subjects move and act in spatial contexts and constitute places in their acting. This applies also for the learning of adults and the professional practice of adult education. The systematic inclusion of spatial aspects into the science of adult education is yet a rare phenomenon, however. Prof. Dr. Richard Stang, together with Christian Bernhard (German National Agency for Education in Europe at the Federal Institute for Vocational Training), Prof. Dr. Katrin Kraus (Pedagogical College at University of Applied Sciences Northern Switzerland) and Jun.-Prof. Dr. Silke Schreiber-Barsch (University of Hamburg) move this topic into focus within the volume “Adult Education and Space”.


The book ties relevant theoretical discourses and latest research findings together and delivers theoretical foundations. The discussion about the category space in adult education, in this volume, does not just encompass physical space, but moreover social space, digital environments, and regional contexts. Through the entanglement of these various perspectives, the inclusion of spatial discussions in adult education is accomplished, the relevance of space for practitioners and researchers is approximated, and fundamental demands in research and development are illustrated.

Christian Bernhard, Katrin Kraus, Silke Schreiber-Barsch, Richard Stang (Hrsg.): Erwachsenenbildung und Raum. Theoretische Perspektiven – professionelles Handeln – Rahmungen des Lernens. Bielefeld: wbv 2015, 235 Seiten, 34,90 Euro

Symposium “Designing Education Paths” in Nürnberg, Germany, November 12-13, 2015

Perspectives for Education

Symposium “Designing Education Paths” in Nürnberg, Germany, November 12-13, 2015

From November 12-13, 2015, Nürnberg will become a meeting place for municipal decision-makers, as well as experts in adult education and libraries from all over Germany. The symposium “Designing Education Paths – New Paths of Networking in Municipal Education Landscapes” presents and discusses novel ways of connecting and collaborating in communal learning regions.

Placing the learning man in the center – and as such citizens‘ education biographies – a change of perspectives is necessary: It is institutions’ responsibility to cooperate more intensive, systematic, and goal-oriented. For cities, this requires a self-conception as a municipal education landscape, in which the local learning opportunities become a part of a system for the support of lifelong learning.


The conference approaches the relation of lifelong learning, the plurality of learning spaces, and their effective cooperation. Renowned scholarly key speakers from present latest research results, while practitioners report on concrete models of cooperation from various cities.

Around 150 participants from German-speaking countries are expected during this two-day symposium, hosted by the Bildungscampus Nürnberg, in cooperation with Stuttgart Media University (; and the German Institute of Adult Education ( The entire agenda, as well as the registration form are available at

Education-centric urban development as a challenge

Symposium „Rein in die Stadt!?“

Education-centric urban development as a challenge


Learning spaces in large cities and the urban periphery were key concern of the symposium “Rein in die Stadt!?” (“Into the city!?”) of the task force “Adult Education and Space”, taking place February 20/21 2015 at Hamburg University, Germany. Scope of the convent and the task force was the discourse on research relationships and results. Fundamental questions addressed the consequences of spacial concepts for scientific theory construction and for professional (adult) pedagogy; theoretic and methodic conclusions from the respective space concepts for research in adult education were drawn.

Prof. Dr. Richard Stang – Lecture: new  Educationcentres
(Source: Emma Fawcett ,Universität Hamburg)

The approaches, which were central to the congress, were:

  • Structures (space, in which man lives)
  • Perception (space, which man experiences)
  • Action (space, lived by man)

The event, organized by Sikle Schreiber Barsch and Rosa Bracker (both Hamburg University) yielded manifold perspectives on these issues. Malte Ebner von Eschenbach (Potsdam University) fathomed the interdependencies of social ecology and a relational space understanding. Claudia Tunsch (Göttingen University) presented an education-theoretic space analysis model. The interplay of planning, design, and occupancy of pedagogical space was central to the thoughts of Katrin Kraus (University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland). Jana Trumann (Duisburg-Essen University) looked at alternative active learning spaces. Bern Käpplinger and Svenja Krämer (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) tackled the problem of research in the light of communal interests.

Richard Stang (Media University Stuttgart) introduced perspectives for an education-centric urban development, setting new grounds for communal lifelong learning with new education and culture centers. Internationally, many cities began redesigning spaces for learning. Examples illustrated approaches to education-centered urban development, while actual strategic concepts are missing, still.

The agenda was highlighted by two comprehensive speeches with strong reference to Hamburg. Hannelore Faulstich-Wieland (Hamburg University) presented the output of the researcher Martha Muchow, who intensively dealt with the living environment of big city adolescents at Hamburg University in the 1920s/30s ( After losing her professorship at the University as a result of the National Socialists in 1933, she committed suicide. In his talk, Peter Faulstich illustrated the dispute on the “Rote Flora” in Hamburg, and how space conflicts can set impulses for learning.

This symposium made clear that relation of space and education becomes a stronger focus of pedagogic research. Hence, it comes with no surprise that the Congress of the German Society for Educational Science (DGfE) 2016 adresses the topic “Spaces for Education – Spaces of Education” (


Winning design for „Bildungshaus Wolfsburg“ released

Winning design for „Bildungshaus Wolfsburg“ released

Since mid-2011, Prof. Dr. Richard Stang (HdM) is consulting the German city of Wolfsburg in developing a concept for their new “Bildungshaus”, merging the further education center, the public library, the media center, and the upper school of the Neue Schule Wolfsburg. One central idea was the spacial integration of contextual contents. The library and the further education rooms are not any longer separated, but form one entity. Participants in adult education will go to classrooms in areas where the library exhibits matching media.

This concept also imposed a big challenge to the architecture competition Richard Stang has been consulting

On January 26, 2015, the winning design for the future Bildungshaus was released.

The Bildungshaus in Wolfsburg.
(Source: The City Wolfsburg)

The Helsinki based architecture firm Esa Ruskeepää Architects and the landscape architects Fugmann Janotta Landscape Architecture from Berlin will design the building, next to the Klieversberg at the opening of the town.

Design of the Bildunghauses in Wolfsburg.
(Source: Stadt Wolfburg)

The facility shall become an innovative, interconnected Learning Space with 16,500 square meters, spearheading the development of municipal education- and culture centers.

The designs of the winning team convinces in their urbanistic position and architectural impression, living up to the high importance this project has for the city. The exceptional plantation in and outside the building will be realized by Tita Giese Pflanzenprojekte from Düsseldorf. The 34 year old architect Esa Ruskeepää manages to translate the manifold requirements of the target group into a persuading space structure and atmosphere, corresponding with the idea of the Bildungshaus. The said structure allows for a barrier-free guidance and orientation system, promising a long-range flexibility of usage.

Preceded by a two-phase planning competition last year, the jury first chose three designs from 112 submissions. In summer 2014, a negotiation procedure followed, allowing the three candidates to expand on their ideas. .

„The winning design supplies a solid basis to give the new ideas and concepts we’re dealing with a constructional framework“, ”, judges Richard Stang. “We have to rethink education not only content-wise, but also spacially, since the integration of digital medial imposes a growing challenge; and this considering the simultaneously growing interest of the learners to remain in physical learning spaces, while communicating to others”, is what Richard Stang prognoses, considering his results that were consolidated in the Learning Research Center. From his research, he consults municipalities developing new education and cultural centers.


»Formierungen von Wissensräumen« published


The debate on knowledge societies oftentimes disregards spacial aspects of public access to information, although it is unmistakably recognized that technology alone does not assure access. Libraries and Archives have to meet the challenge to develop inside their existing, or in new buildings, in order to overcome the division of physical and digital information spaces, considering the convergence of various information media and contents, ensuring a bidirectional accessibility. From the perspective of science, architecture, civil society, and library and information practice, the volume “The Formation of Knowledge Spaces” investigates what contribution spacially bound information services, like libraries and archives, make towards the public access of information – now and in the future.


Olaf Eigenbrodt, Richard Stang (Hrsg.):Formierung von Wissenräumen
Olaf Eigenbrodt, Richard Stang (Hrsg.):
Formierung von Wissensräumen

Lecture in the context of the symposium “Der Raum als 3. Pädagoge”


The Focus of this symposium rested on the design of learning spaces. How shall school buildings be designed to suit the demand, and how can teaching and learning be shaped inside there? Not every institution of education can afford a now building “just like that”.

How can existing buildings be opened up, suiting requested usage?

Altering space just as well conditions tuition and classroom activities. A change towards learner-centered education is taking place.

How to succeed with such an undertaking is central to Richard Stang’s lecture on “Learning Spaces of the Future“.

Richard Stang; Video:”Learning Spaces of the Future.(german)”
(Source: Christina Steininger)

Digital Learning Environments

Digital Learning Environments

Through the intensive spread of mobile devices with Internet access, such as smartphones or tablets, new prospects for learning, independent of location and time are created. Learning in the mobile era presumes the interaction with other learners, tutors, and experts with the help of social media. This expands learning in traditional arrangements and makes the learner a co-creator of knowledge, e.g. through web 2.0 technology. Thereby, opportunities are shaped to allow learners examine complex contents in authentic situations.
Through a multitude of collaboration and research with schools and universities, we investigate in the range of possibilities of the so-called mobile learning, for years already. Here, the central ongoing questions concern how learning activities can be aligned with the help of mobile gadgets, and which interfaces (the visualization of the various functionalities of the mobile devices) are most appropriate.


Global trends in physical learning space research: A commentary on the current state of the forthcoming research database “Learning Spaces – Lernwelten. An international research database.”

In April 2013, Dr. Richard Stang of Media University Stuttgart, Germany, launched the project “Learning Spaces – Lernwelten. An international research database.” to gather and consolidate the advances of learning space development in education institutions worldwide (Volkmann & Stang, 2013). In Germany, especially libraries and adult education centers expressed a dire need for guidance and good case practice. Consequently, a bibliographic collection was initiated, drawing together both, exemplary projects and research initiatives internationally. The result is the largest bibliographic database in the entire field. For the first time, 1600 records, covering especially Germany, the English-speaking world, and Scandinavia, enable us to trace the progresses and trends of this young discipline on a global scale.[insert link to external ppt]

Learning spaces growing visibly strong in English speaking countries!

Learning Spaces are definitely not “An under-researched topic” (Temple, 2008) any more. Today, the motto rather is “Keeping Pace with the Rapid Evolution of Learning Spaces” (Morrone & Workman, 2014). Especially in the Anglo-American tertiary education sector, a great amount of institutions have begun creating informal, flexible learning environments, designed specifically towards the needs and working preferences of their students (Lippincott, Hemmasi, & Lewis, 2014; Thorne, Gattrell, Michelle, & White, 2014; Turner, Welch, & Reynolds, 2013; Watson & Howden, 2013).
Through high-end technology integration and demographic shifts among the learners, the physical space blends in with the virtual, and enables learning anywhere at any time (Fang, 2014; Keppell, Souter, & Riddle, 2012; Oblinger, 2014). Through novel partnerships across campus, services and resources are consolidated in learning centers, -commons, and -hubs (Allen, Gould, Littrell, & Schillie, 2010; Maybee, Doan, & Riehle, 2013; Melling & Weaver, 2013; Schader, 2008). Eventually, the academic library transforms into a single point of access, uniting stakeholders on campus (Bulpitt, 2013; Meunier & Eigenbrodt, 2014; Sparrow & Whitmer, 2014).
The wholeness of these projects become more and more controlled and documented. In an open-innovation approach, universities increasingly share their experiences through reports and presentations, and educational research institutions supply a theoretic, systematic, and methodic fundament . Entire journals (Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT), n.d.; OECD Centre for Effective Learning Environments (CELE), 2012; University of North Carolina UNC Greensboro, n.d.) and research communities have been founded to provide practitioners, architects, and decision makers with scientifically reliable tools. A sheer mass of models for designing and evaluating learning spaces have sprung from these ambitions. Academic learning spaces are by far no risky endeavors or experiments any more: they became an integral part of campus development and institutional public reputation (den Heijer & Magdaniel, 2012; Fisher & Newton, 2014; Meunier & Eigenbrodt, 2014; Naaranoja, 2014) – and increasingly, the same can be said about other institutions, such as primary and secondary education, and public libraries (Nygren, 2014; Partnership for 21st Century Skills, n.d.; Skot-Hansen, Rasmussen, & Jochumsen, 2013; Sutherland & Fischer, 2014), where Europe’s advance is far more solid (Büning, 2012; Heinemann, 2012; Hell, 2012; Jochumsen, Rasmussen, & Skot-Hansen, 2012b; Kulturstyrelsen & Realdania, 2013; Mair-Gummermann, 2011; Overgaard & Larsen, 2013; Palmer-Horn, 2013; Pihl, 2012; Piikkilä & Sågfors, 2013; Riedl, 2013; Skot-Hansen et al., 2013; Thorhauge, 2010; Weinreich, 2011).

Disconnected research and Babylonian confusion

Interestingly though, many research hubs worldwide seem to strive to invent these fundaments and models by themselves, instead of collaborating and building upon each other. Rarely do authors cite colleagues and projects from other countries: oftentimes, the discourse remains a national one, although similar trends, challenges, and experiences can be found just across the border.
The language barrier reinforces this obstacle. Exchanging ideas between Canada, the US, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, is not a linguistic problem – between other countries, it is. Not surprisingly, project reports and research frequently circulates only in the respective lingua franca, which deters the comprehensibility in other countries, but much more: it hinders the discovery of the publication!
Consequently, throughout the ongoing research for this database, one major challenge has been to identify the equivalent of the term ‘learning space’ in other languages. In Norway, for instance, the word ‘læringsarena’ is used (e.g. Akerholt, 2008; Egeland, 2011; Hermanrud, 2011; Jochumsen, Rasmussen, & Skot-Hansen, 2012a), which translates to ‘learning arena’ literally – a term that makes sense by logic, but hardly any non-Norwegian would intuitively assume this word is used to refer to learning spaces in Scandinavia. Interestingly however, Scandinavian authors themselves sometimes use the exact latter words in their English publications (e.g. Høyrup Pedersen, 2012; Minken, 2009), and this limits the discoverability of their publications. (Besides, Scandinavia formed terms like ‘læringsrum’, ‘læringsmiljø’, ‘læringscenter’.)
The situation in Germany is arguably even worse. Here, a dozen synonyms circulate, such as Lern-, Bildungs- and Wissens, -raum, -zentrum, -umgebung, -arrangement, -ort, -punkt, -studio, or -atelier … constructs that sometimes are decades old already (Neidhardt, 2006; Pätzold & Goerke, 2006). This suggests that the research collaboration even halts between regions, possibly institutions, and that the prominence of the topic is still marginal – otherwise, there would be a more precise way to communicate about learning spaces in Germany.

Capturing today’s complexity in realizing the perfect learning environment

Simply compromising on a single term that is synonymous or most frequently used in each language (e.g. learning space – Lernort – læringsmiljø, for English, German, and Scandinavian) will not be the ideal solution, however. A pilot usability study on the here presented database “Learning Spaces – Lernwelten.” illustrates that even among an unrepresentative sample of learning space stakeholders, a strong ambiguity of search term connotation is present (Volkmann, 2014). In short: ‘learning space’ is a highly general collective term, which stands for everything from design, over technology and digital environments, learners’ profiles and pedagogic concepts, strategy, organizational forms and partnership models. These aspects also need a standardized vocabulary.
We are not just dealing with students and designers, but also with teachers, administration and staff, policy and decision makers – all of which have a slightly different idea and interest in changing physical and digital learning landscapes (Clugston, 2013; Dahlstrom, Brooks, & Bichsel, 2014; Lee et al., 2011; Pivik, 2010; Rozgonyi & Whalley, 2014; Stang, 2012). The publishing community has to account for them! For instance, architects and designers are expecting visual materials (Volkmann, 2014), while most journal publications and reports only consist of fairly uninspiring rows of text. Besides giving stakeholders better access to information and best practice, the ground needs to be set for them to interact! Identifying the key areas that learning space projects include, and the interfaces, where these stakeholders meet is crucial (Akinsanmi, n.d.; Bligh & Flood, 2014; Dantzer, 2013; Deutsches Institut für Erwachsenenbildung – Leibniz-Zentrum für Lebenslanges Lernen (DIE), 2012; Franz, 2010; May & Kannenberg, 2014; Meunier & Eigenbrodt, 2014; Sparrow & Whitmer, 2014; Stang, 2012; Willis, 2014). Only then can the ongoing global research connect scientists and practitioners of all kind.
Evidently, realizing the perfect learning environment goes far beyond simply placing modern furniture in refurbished classrooms. Satisfying and mediating the demands of all interest groups is only one element among a growing range of project management issues. The abovementioned increased share in institutional strategy, management, and public relations in turn requires projects to feature methods and key performance indicators that measure its success. In all sectors, user engagement in the entire project cycle, from researching learners’ needs and behavior, and involving architects, teachers, and learners in design and evaluation procedures is addressed excessively in the major research networks around the globe (Clark, 2010; Cunningham, Doherty, & Giblin, 2014; Foster, 2014; Germany, 2014; Kanyal, 2014; Meunier & Eigenbrodt, 2014; Rozgonyi & Whalley, 2014; Willis, 2014; Woolner, 2014).

A controlled vocabulary creating a global research community

This variety of terms, which address ‘learning spaces’ in general, illustrates how difficult it can be to find publications in and beyond one’s own language on the said topic. The quite young discipline definitely suffers from a missing controlled vocabulary and a broad taxonomy. This deficit prevents an international exchange of research and innovative practice.
For example, the concept of ‘campus cooperation’ is widespread among Anglo-American institutions – but it remains a marginal agenda in public libraries, schools, and adult education. Quite the contrary is the case in Germany: among the latter institutions, cooperations and partnerships are a key strategic endeavor. Therefrom springs the innovative trend towards what Stang calls ‘spatial integration’ (‘Räumliche Integration’) (2010a) – different types of educational institutions physically joining forces under the same roof, spawning novel synergies (Berthold, 2013; Götz, 2010; Mair-Gummermann, 2011; Riedl, 2013; Stang, 2010b; Weinreich, 2011). These trends cannot be discovered by direct search itself, but only by serendipity! With its large-scale taxonomy, the database “Learning Spaces – Lernwelten.” provides this exact feature.
The broad scope of the research database finally establishes a universal platform to make such trends visible globally. It sets the foundation for international and interinstitutional research synergies and good case practice exchange. Thereby, we strive to connect the worldwide research hubs and support institutions, practitioners, and politics with the necessary information to benefit from everyone’s’ experiences on the planet.


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New Database to view global trends for the first time!

Learning Spaces – Lernwelten“. New Database to view global trends for the first time!

by Stefan Volkmann

Learning Spaces are a major buzzword these days among all kinds of education institutions. Still, in many countries, such as Germany, practitioners are lacking experience and methods to realize the concepts that are circulating in the Anglo-American world. Simply copying their concepts does not work, because every institution and every country has their own characteristics and challenges. But oftentimes, it is already difficult to get a simple overview about how others solve a particular challenge in their projects.

Consequently, Prof. Dr. Richard Stang has initiated the Project “Learning Spaces – Lernwelten”, in order to bridge the gap between international research hubs, various education institutions, and practitioners. The result is the largest bibliographic research database on learning space development and trends worldwide. The project’s goal is to consolidate the global advances in designing and managing contemporary learning landscapes, to aid the work of architects, teachers, decision makers, and politics.

Beyond this, the project found that the strong pace of the English-speaking world is not at all as aligned, as it seems. Research hubs rarely look beyond national borders and therefore miss out on the innovative measures of their neighbors. Most of Europe is oblivious of the strong campus development concepts that the US and the UK are spearheading. Conversely, the German concept of specially integrating multiple types of education institutions in one building complex is rarely knows outside the country. This database is the key to spread best practices and inspiration around the globe, connecting latest research and innovative projects with ambitious practitioners![/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]