This exploratory study examines the Peter Jones Learning Centre’s (PJLC) transition from a quiet, autonomous interior to a learning commons model that encourages collaboration and socialization.
Located at University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) in British Columbia, the PJLC has been revitalized to support new learning theories and provides a hub for students’ involvement and engagement on campus. Research in the planning, function, and utilization of non-formal learning environments is limited, therefore the study’s purpose is threefold: first, to gain insight as to administrators’ perceptions and observations of student learning in non-formal learning space; second, to understand how administrators implement their understanding of learning into the planning, design, and operation of the PJLC; and third, to examine the transactional relationship between the learning environment and learner.
Using the post-occupancy evaluation, ten semi-structured interviews were conducted, including five administrators influential in the PJLC design and space programming, and five learners who had utilized the facility over the course of their studies. The space performance evaluations conducted assessed the PJLC’s technical, functional, and behavioural features. This was followed by structured observational sweeps that included the documentation of 1,943 campus members’ location, activities, gender, and sociological grouping preference. Administrators’ describe student learning in non-formal learning space as technologically supported, socially driven, and multitask-oriented, and explained that they integrated their understanding of student learning in the PJLC’s space programming, physical design, policies, services, and resources provided.
The space performance evaluations demonstrated how the PJLC’s setting functioned and identified structural and environmental features that supported and hindered students’ use. Learners interviewed described that the PJLC’s physical design, operation, services, and resources provided were influential in their use of the facility. The observations conducted of campus members’ utilization of the PJLC document a series of social and activity patterns within the building.
The study’s findings suggest further research in areas such as gender, preference of learning space, integrated planning and research, environmental assessment, and inclusive learning environments that accommodate students with special needs.