Friday, 4 May 2012

Nanyang Technological University - Learning Commons

Nanyang Technological University – Learning Commons

Another day in Singapore and another thunderstorm, but fortunately, another university designed in such a way that movement between buildings can be undertaken easily and in the dry.

The Lee Wee Nam Library is Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) flagship Library.  It houses the Engineering and Science Collections

Library image from NTU website
My meeting was scheduled to commence in the newly refurbished Librarian’s Offices.

The Librarian’s Offices have recently been refurbished and include a new multi media boardroom and Library Training Room.

New multi-media board room
The board room has dual projection and smartboard facilities.  Laptops can be connected to the systems via input plates located in the table, but in order to ensure that the table top is left clear, the input plates are located at various points underneath the table top.

Input plates beneath table top
Up to 4 laptops can be connected into the data projection system and switched via a touch screen panel.

The room also has video conference capabilities.

Video conference capability
The recently upgraded Library training room has been upgraded with 30 fixed PCs for library training and other workshops.  The layout has been changed from straight to curved rows. 

Library Training Room
The side walls are glass to provide additional writing surfaces. 

A black strip runs down the wall to denote the presence of a step to prevent accidents, the chairs have wheels and are stackable

The Lee Wee Nam Library
The University is relatively young, and subject disciplines are growing rapidly, as is the demand for space for collections and reading places.  New spaces to accommodate group and collaborative learning are also being demanded by students.  This has created a challenge for the Library to create a balance between the demands for the physical collection (not everything is available as “E”) and student study spaces.

The Library is a 5 story building, with many of the study facilities located around the perimeter of the building.
Example of floor layout
Study spaces on the mezzanine floor
The Library reviews spaces within the 7 university libraries regularly to identify opportunities to repurpose spaces to create added value.  As a result of the heavier component of group based work in the university, they quickly identified that the University did not have any well equipped discussion spaces for the students to use after classes ended.  A survey identified that students studied at the University first (classes), home next and last choice was to go to the library, and this was often because the students had a problem they needed assistance with.

Using the “Cool Campus Budget”, the Library identified a small (300 square metres) space to create an experimental Learning Commons.

The space was transformed to provide: Learning Pods, Multi-media PCs, a recording room, video wall and digital newspapers.

 Learning Pods

6  Learning Pods have been created, 3 of which are located close to the IT Help Desk.

IT Helpdesk with pods 1 to 3 behind
Learning Pod
Pods 1 to 3 are equipped with 42 inch LCD monitors and PCs

Learning Pods 1 to 3 have fixed tables and movable stools
The pods have individual light switches and inputs for the students to use their own devices

Learning Pods 4 to 6 are located by the Recording room and are equipped with 48 inch Smart Boards

Learning Pods 3 to 6 with Smart Boards
The tables here are reconfigurable for the students to create layouts to suit their needs.

Tables designed by library staff
All of the Learning Pods have blue glass writing panels which are also magnetic and conventional whiteboards.

When booked, the students check in at the Help Desk and are issued with a pack which includes writing pens and equipment use instructions.

Multi-Monitor and Touchscreen PC Workstations

PC workstations have been set up in 3 different configurations:
4 stations have 2 screens, 4 stations have 3 screens and 3 stations have touch screen PCs

Unit with 3 screen PC arrangement
View of 2 screen PC workstations with Learning Pods behind
Touch Screen PC workstation 
Touch Screen PC
The multi-monitors provide a bigger screen surface and the option to open up more applications all at one go. The PC workstations are equipped with ‘Pinnacle’ software for video editing. 
Recording Room
This is a small room providing students with access to audio and video recording facilities quickly and conveniently.
Recording Room with green screen in the corner
The Recording room is fully equipped with recording equipment, a green screen and chroma key software.
Familiar Lectern from Korea!
There is a fully equipped "e-lectern" for student use.
Video Wall
The video wall is located in between the learning pods.  It comprises of 4 x 46 inch LCD monitors
Video Wall
Displays include information about the digital resources and facilities provided by the library.
Sound Dome
There are 8 sound domes suspended from the ceiling to project sound from the video wall, minimizing sound spillage into other areas.  The area has intentionally not been enclosed because it is used by Student Societies and other groups for various events.  This is a nice free open space that attracts a lot of attention when events are being held.
Digital Newspapers
Digital Newspaper station
There are 3 digital newspaper readers at the Commons. The LCD screens are interactive, 
allowing users to flip pages and browse digital editions of newspapers.
Topical, a page from the Straits Times!
The Learning Commons has been open for approximately one year, and the Library has undertaken an evaluation of the impact of the space on students, their learning and their use of the Library.
The results show overwhelmingly that the Learning Commons, although small, has had a huge impact upon student behaviour, and as a result the Library is now seen as the first destination for study facilities.
In view of this success, and, taking into account the student feedback, the Library has created a second, and larger, Learning Commons in the Business School Library.
The Business Library Learning Commons.
Entrance to the Business Library
The Business Library Learning Commons is a much larger facility and includes other services seen to provide added value to the students.

The design of the space is meant to mirror that of a railway carriage.

Windows "reflecting" those found in a railway carriage
The Business Lounge

Immediately inside the entrance can be found the Business Lounge. This is a small space set up in an informal manner for students to access Bloomberg resources that are not freely available on the internet.

Glazed screen to the Business Lounge
Students are able to come here and work and/or met with others over a drink as tea and coffee facilities are available to them.

Informal business lounge
The Learning commons is located on the lower ground floor and houses a large number of open access PCs for general use, with both single and dual screens.

View into the Learning Commons from the upper level
A further 6 study pods have been in created, and in response to student feedback, the pods are larger to accommodate larger group sizes

New, larger Learning Pods
Also in response to student feedback, the LCD screens have been replaced by Smart Boards in all the pods

Learning Pod with adjustable lighting
The Cinema Room

Next to the study pods is the Cinema room, used by students to both create and view their presentations and videos.

This is quite a “cool” room with some nice features.

Nice, comfy furniture and ceiling with twinkling lights
Unit to house equipment and LCD Screen
This space is sound proof and can be used for larger groups to study if not in use for video related activities

New Student Services.

An area, the Careers Research Corner has been created to enable students to have access to a wide range of resources when considering their career choices

Careers Research Corner
Here students can search databases for jobs on dedicated PCs. Appointments with advisors can be made and informal discussions held in the small open meeting area alongside, or students can simply use the space and resources to prepare for interviews.

Meeting Corner
Also in this area is a Language Learning Centre

Language Learning Resources
Which consists of a library of open access language resources

additional resources for self paced language learning
Students can help themselves to the resources and use them in the suite of small rooms provided for quiet study

Sound proofed study booths 
Facilities inside the booths
The library will continue to monitor and evaluate the use of these spaces in order to ensure that they continue to meet the student’s needs both now and in the future

View from the Learning Commons to the upper levels

Again, there are many more interesting things to talk about here at NTU, but space and time don't allow!


  1. Just wanted to let you know how much I've enjoyed this series. Very useful in rethinking learning spaces.

    Thanks so much.

  2. Dear Marc,

    No, thank you, I am really pleased that you have enjoyed it!! Clearly it has been an amazing and unique honour to do this and I hope that it has made sense to the reader, as there is so much more that I have not been able to convey, simply due to time constraints!
    I am now home and need to write up the full report within the month, so the hard works starts now!!

    Best wishes