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Learning Hubs

Learning and teaching spaces for interactive and collaborative forms of learning and teaching. For more teamwork, group and project work and combined in-person/online teaching.

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Multimedia experimentation room, a hybrid learning and teaching space © gataric-fotografie/FHNW

The new campus buildings of the FHNW University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland are modern complexes. The premises are constantly being adapted to new needs. In 2019 and 2020, the FHNW built a total of seven new learning and teaching spaces on three of its campuses as part of its FHNW Learning Hubs strategic initiative.

The following question was addressed

Digital evolution is changing jobs and the nature of work. New interactive digital technologies require and facilitate new forms of collaboration as well as learning and teaching. This raises the question for us as a university of applied sciences as to how learning and teaching spaces should be designed in order to foster new collaborative forms of cooperation, the joy of experimentation, and the practical skills of students and participants in continuing education.

Digital technologies are increasingly being used in the workplace, and teamwork and project work play an important role. As a consequence, educational institutions need to test these technologies and forms of collaboration to ascertain what is educationally meaningful and conducive to the acquisition of skills.

The goal of the strategic initiative was to develop and evaluate learning and teaching spaces for new interactive and collaborative forms of learning and teaching (e.g. project work, case studies, group work) by means of pilot projects, and to derive recommendations for how learning and teaching spaces could be developed further.

The insights gained from an international stock-take of megatrends, research findings, pilot projects and examples of good practice in the field of physical/digital teaching and learning spaces, as well as a needs analysis conducted internally, were incorporated into the development of the seven pilot FHNW Learning Hubs and two preliminary projects. Visits to places of higher education, companies and institutions in Switzerland and abroad yielded useful insights and examples of good practice.

The focus was placed on learning and teaching spaces that meet the following specifications:

  • The rooms and furnishings allow for the greatest possible flexibility
  • The furniture and media support interactive and collaborative methods (project work, group work, workshop settings, case studies)
  • The rooms and media support hybrid* and web-based learning and teaching settings (*synchronous in-person teaching with participants physically present as well as online)

The following impacts were achieved

Located on three campuses, seven new FHNW Learning Hubs, including a web-based 3D environment, are available as pilot spaces for students, continuing education participants and teaching staff. Teaching staff can use them to develop innovative forms of learning and teaching, which students and participants in further education can benefit from.
Project and group work, case study-based teaching, agile and project-oriented forms of teaching and other forms of collaborative and interactive learning and teaching are now supported in a more targeted manner in terms of use of space. The spatial utilisation of the learning and teaching settings can be changed easily and quickly. The flexibility and equipment of these pilot rooms and the 3D environment provide enhanced support for creativity, multi-sensory learning and 21st century skill training.

Based on the findings obtained so far, this strategic initiative will be continued as a FHNW Learning Hubs sub-project within the framework of the «University Teaching 2025» strategic development priority. The focus will be on three areas:

  • Hybrid, interactive learning/teaching spaces
  • Cross reality X / augmented / virtual reality
  • Collaborative 3D environments

The goal of the FHNW is to offer students and continuing education participants optimal preparation for their professional careers and future challenges. This calls for flexible learning and teaching spaces that support interactive and collaborative forms of exchange and cooperation – both in the classroom and in hybrid, online or web-based learning and teaching settings.

Outlined below are four physical spaces and one 3D space.

Multimedia experimentation room

The multimedia experimentation room is flexible in terms of its application. It is suitable for hybrid teaching and interactive forms of learning and discussion. Hybrid means that some of the participants are physically present in the room while others participate remotely via videoconferencing. The remote participants can be seen on the flat screen. A video camera in the screen and good microphones allow the remote participants to communicate well with those in the room. The electronic flipchart can be used as a digital whiteboard.

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© gataric-fotografie/FHNW

Workshop space

Every item of furniture in the workshop space can be moved, and there is no front and back: touchscreen monitor, digital whiteboard, bar tables, seating – all mobile on wheels and thus rearranged in an instant. The workshop space is particularly suited to interactive and collaborative methods such as project work, group work, workshop settings, design thinking and case studies.

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© gataric-fotografie/FHNW

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© gataric-fotografie/FHNW

Student workplaces

The FHNW Campus Brugg-Windisch offers freely accessible student workplaces featuring modular wooden boxes, which students can use to construct their own tables and chairs – and hence their learning environment. The idea is to make group and project work easier and more personalised.

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© gataric-fotografie/FHNW

Flexible seminar room

Pilot project at the FHNW School of Business: chairs on castors with integrated side tables allow for flexible, interactive teaching/learning settings in rapidly changing group sizes. This is useful when discussing case studies on the business administration programme.

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© Jennifer Waldmeier/FHNW

Collaborative 3D Environment

The Collaborative 3D Environment pilot project enables students, participants in continuing education and teaching staff to immerse themselves in a web-based world and try out new forms of interactive meeting, collaborative working, and learning and teaching. The 3D environment offers an alternative to conventional video conferencing systems; it also allows for more tailored and diverse interaction between the participants.

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© Foto Screenshot AULA

Interdisciplinary collaboration in the project

What distinguished the interdisciplinary collaboration in the project?

The development of the seven pilot rooms depended entirely on the work of an interdisciplinary team. The planning and realisation of an up-to-the-minute learning/teaching space requires expertise from various fields and an interdisciplinary approach. The needs of higher education institutions and disciplines must be taken into account in relation to their various educational settings. Learning psychology and media educational issues must also be considered. Also to be taken into consideration are the interior design (aesthetics, design, furniture, atmosphere, etc.) of the space, its technical facilities (audiovisual media, etc.) and its incorporation into the overall construction and spatial concept of a university or campus. The development of existing rooms and the creation of new innovative teaching/learning spaces depend on an interdisciplinary approach involving all nine of the FHNW’s schools complete with their teaching staff and students, Corporate IT, the real estate and infrastructure departments, the e-learning contact point (ELK), and the relevant persons in charge of the rooms and spaces.

Project management team

  • Dr. Bernd Eichinger, Vice Presidium for University Development (project manager)
  • Anja Huovinen, Presidium of the Board of Directors
  • Kevyn Eva Norton, Consultant Neue Arbeitswelten und User Centric Design, NortonConcepts
  • Ricarda T.D. Reimer, Management ELK FHNW / PH
  • Prof. Christian Tanner, HSW
  • Prof. Dr. Carmen Zahn, APS

Strategic Initiatives of the FHNW: Learning Hubs


Bernd Eichinger

Dr. Bernd Eichinger

Head of University Development Projects

Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz
Bahnhofstrasse 6, 5210 Windisch
T +41 56 202 71 39 (direkt)