Learning Hub Töölö invites you to enjoy more effective learning
Aalto Learning Hub project co-ordinator Valeria Gryada enjoying the Learning Hub Greenhouse. Photo: Mikko Raskinen
Aalto Learning Hubs are practical spaces, in whose design students are allowed to have a say. Hubs can be described as a combination of a workspace and living room. A Learning Hub is not only a place to study, but also a social meeting point, where people come to enjoy themselves.
‘Everything is done together with the people using the space.’
‘The concept of the Learning Hubs is generally the same: you take a space that is underused and with little investments convert it into something that speaks to the needs of the students. Everything is done together with the people using the space; the locals’, explains Learning Hub project co-ordinator Valeria Gryada.
Gryada works as a designer at the Aalto University Library and has been involved in development of the Learning Hub concept since its inception. The first experimental version of the Learning Hubs ran at the Töölö Campus Library a couple years ago. According to Gryada, this was a true pilot project that produced vital statistical data, thus proving that the Learning Hub would significantly increase the number of users for the space.
Since that time, more Learning Hubs have been installed, sweetening the daily routines of Aalto students and faculty mainly on the Otaniemi campus. The initiative for construction of a Learning Hub in the main building of the Töölö Campus came from the school itself. The word of earlier trials had spread all the way to Runeberginkatu, and the School of Business also wanted to offer its students better working facilities. The goal is to improve learning, promote student interaction and strengthen the sense of community at the School of Business.
From students to students
Besides Gryada, an international and multidisciplinary student team has been working on the Töölö project. The team members come from the different schools of Aalto University.
‘The different backgrounds of students turned out to be really useful, as they had different points of view on things and were able to build on each others' ideas’, says Gryada. Indeed, she wants to emphasise the role that the student team played in realising the project.
‘Personally, I try to see my role as not really a team leader, but rather a mentor. I want to give them the space to produce their own ideas, not just replicate things that have already been done’, she explains, adding that she is proud of the team's accomplishments. They gathered a large volume of background information and, based on it, came up with a plan, which was presented. Based on this plan, installation of the actual space began.
Riikka Haakana, a student of Real Estate Economics at the Aalto University School of Engineering, heard about the project from a friend, who knew that Haakana had a passion for work environment management. Because there were very few courses offered on the subject, Haakana did not have to think for very long about joining the project.
‘To learn more, you have to be very active and get involved in all kinds of things. What really motivates me in my work is the idea that I can contribute to improving the workplace and routines for so many; naturally, in this case, it's for students’, explains Haakana.
Maria Smirnova also heard about Learning Hub from a friend. Smirnova, who studied Interior Architecture and Furniture Design at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture, was especially motivated by the opportunity to challenge herself.
‘Working on this kind of team was a new experience as an interior designer - yet I could use some knowledge and skills I’ve learned before in my studies’, says Smirnova.
Different facilities for a wide variety of studies
The key word in planning was ’user-oriented’. The team surveyed students at the School of Business—the future users of the space—to determine what kind of study facilities they wanted on the Töölö Campus. Surveying the students turned out to be critical. Gryada provides an example:
‘At one point, we had a wild idea to completely remove the silent study room on the fifth floor. But we found out that it was actually the only quiet place to study on the whole campus!’
More computers, among other things, were in store for the updated room. (Image of a preliminary design: Maria Smirnova)
Based on the feedback gathered from students, the space is divided into separate areas, which promote different work needs. There is space for group work as well as working on a computer. Although the silent study room remained where it is, it received a minor facelift. A new feature planned the space includes areas designed for practicing presentations.
’There have to be places where people can brainstorm, create new things together, meet people and enjoy studying.’
Practical improvements come from a grassroots level: more power outlets, better ergonomics and less noise. Making the space a pleasant and motivating meeting place is vital.
’There have to be places where students can just buckle down and study for exams, but also where people can brainstorm, create new things together, meet people and enjoy studying,’ says Haakana.
User-orientation remains a key element even now that the space is completed.
’We wanted to make the space flexible, so that users can shape it according to their needs. If something doesn't work, they can fix it easily and quickly,’ says Gryada.
The students of the School of Business have been able to enjoy the updated facilities since Spring 2014.