For the majority, institutions will have a mixture of central and departmental space. A central teaching space being a space that can be used by every department for teaching purposes, typically controlled and booked by the central timetabling team. Whilst a a departmental teaching space is a space that can typically only be used by the department that the space is assigned. Department only teaching space can be heated topic within institutions, with central administration departments and academic departments typically having a very different stance on whether they are beneficial or not.
Department only teaching space has its pro’s and con’s, and it is the balance of these that makes the decision and management of department teaching space a tricky topic. Therefore it is necessary to fully consider these pro’s and con’s and what impact they can have , to ensure the right decisions are made when it comes down to department only teaching space.
Lets start with the pro’s of department only teaching space
- Student engagement and the student experience
One of the main pro’s of departmental teaching space is that it also provides the department with an opportunity to engage with the student before and after the teaching activity has taken place. As long as department staff and resources are well equipped, friendly and available for students to engage with and are in close proximity to the department only teaching space, the typical student is much more likely to want to spend more time and continue engagement outside of the timetabled activities that take place in the department only teaching space.
The more time a student spends in the departments building engaging with staff, other students from within the department and the resources available, the greater the connection and emotion they will have towards their department helping to give them an all round positive student experience that will be reflected in the NSS.
- Specialist and delivery focussed teaching space
Department only teaching space enables a department to create the type of teaching space that will enable its staff to deliver teaching that will provide the most benefit to their students. By having this department only specialist space, students and staff can explore information and carry out experiments that are specific to their sector, providing a more detailed and relevant experience than central teaching space can typically offer, helping to improve engagement and the student experience.
It can be said that this demand could be addressed by the central teaching space, but there will be instances where a department wants to create a teaching room that will be of great benefit to its students, but will not be of much if any use to other departments. In this case, the central team is less likely to want to focus funding towards improving teaching provision for one sub section of students if funding could be spent elsewhere and provide teaching facilities that would be of benefit to all students.
- Teaching Space Funding
I touched on this above, but the amount of funding available for teaching space can be a significant factor in the decision over whether a space should be departmental or centrally owned. In many cases it will just not be financially viable for the central department to create specialist space that a department wants (this will of course depend on how your finances are structured), but from the departments perspective they need this space in order to educate and engage with their students effectively. Therefore in this situation, providing the department in question has finances available, it may be advantageous to permit a room to be department only as long as the department spends their own funds on refurbishing the space into the type of teaching space they desire.
Unfortunately, although there are pro’s there are also con’s of having departmental teaching as shown below.
- Space Utilisation
Department only teaching space is more at risk of being underutilised than that of central teaching space, due to it only being available for its departments teaching and if also a specialist space, only for a specific type of teaching within that department . This will not be the same for all, but it is a common issue amongst institutions whether it be for one department, or several, as if only one department can use a space then the demand is consequentially much less than than if all departments can.
The underutilisation of a departments space can be a significant issue if the central or other departments teaching space is at capacity, forcing institutions to either spend resources on creating additional teaching space or increase potential contact time (i.e. teaching week) to accommodate the demand. Both of these scenarios, bring with them the disadvantages of either significant funding requirements or possible impacts on student and staff experience, whilst there still remains underutilised teaching space within an institution that could resolve the issue if available and suitable for all.
- Timetable Experience
I have included this in the con’s list as if central available teaching space is in short supply, department only teaching space will have a negative effect on the overall timetabling experience if less well utilised. A shortage of teaching space to accommodate timetable requests, hampers the timetabling teams ability to produce a timetable focussed on providing a positive student experience. Whilst underutilised departmental teaching space can provide timetabling benefits for those departments that have in, for those that don’t it can have a significant negative impact on their students timetable as factors such as length of student day, or gaps between lecture (plus many other factors) will be much harder or impossible to implement if there isn’t in the space to accommodate them.
- Teaching Space Funding
I have included teaching space funding under both pro’s and cons, as although there can be the initial funding advantage of the academic department rather than the central department funding the space refurbishments, if poorly controlled it can become a real burden to the institution if the availability of central teaching space is or becomes an issue. Specialist teaching space, is typically less well utilised and in the face of a teaching space shortage, having this space available and useful for all students is likely to be much more beneficial to the institution than it still being a specialist space benefiting a small sub section.
If it isn’t feasible to reclaim the room, significant funding may have to be spent refurbishing other types of space or even construes additional space to accommodate the demand. Even if it is feasible to reclaim the space, if conditions haven’t been out in place, extra resources may have to be spent in order to reconfigure this room so it is suitable for central use.
Each pro and con will have less or more an effect upon each individual institution depending on the different policies and space availability it has. For example, a space rich institution is unlikely to be as effected by the con’s listed above as that of an institution who is in short supply. Similarly an institution whose departments do not have the necessary policies and resources to promote further engagement or finance the refurbishment of the teaching space, will receive less of the pro’s associated with department only teaching space.
There are also methods of limiting the actual effect the con’s can have, whilst also maximising the potential pro’s, which will help to maximise the benefits department only teaching space can have. I will follow this article within the next couple of weeks, looking at how this can be done. If you would like to be notified when this is available online, just enter your details in the menu on the right and click subscribe and you will be notified as soon as this article has been posted online, as well as receive a monthly newsletter containing extra free information, as well as sector news, offers and more.
So, what do you think? Have you got any more pro’s or con’s you think should be included? It would be great to hear from you and hopefully also beneficial to others if you do have extra information to add. Please leave your comments via the comments box at the bottom of the article, plus use the share buttons to the left if you would like to let others know about this article any other information provided on the Education Space Consultancy blog.
I hope you have found this article interesting and useful, please don’t hesitate to get in contact if you would like to discuss department teaching space at your institution.
All the best