What is Flyspace?
Flyspace is a simple design for a meeting space for students. It is designed to be inexpensive, modular, and compact. The intent is to limit room sizes to 5-6 occupants. There has been much work done on collaborative learning and group activities that points towards smaller being better. Keeping room sizes small will help foster an intimate space of collaboration, and in addition will make it more likely that other spaces can be built around campus.
The plans for Flyspace offer minimal technology to foster collaboration; it is an implicit intent that technology not be a main feature of these rooms. Technology is there to assist, but not dominate collaborative work. The emphasis is on flat work areas, including extensive use of white boards along all walls.
The basic room technology infrastructure is designed to be inexpensive to build and expand. A centralized "pod" contains all data and power connectors for equipment in the room, making it easy to connect equipment, and minimizing the cost of running conduit for data, media and power. The prototype Flyspaces will use a basic design with two computers mounted on articulated arms, connectivity (data and video) three laptops, a large flat panel display that users can display their desktop on for others to see, optional low cost audio/video conferencing, and software tools to allow users (either in the room or not) to share content easily. The inclination will be to focus on simple solutions that are easy to use, so that it is more likely that they will be used.
Perhaps the most important feature of Flyspace is an open scheduling system that allows any registered student to schedule a space for a meeting or group project. This is counter to the current situation, where meeting spaces are tightly controlled, and students are often not allowed to use meeting spaces at all.
Beyond some basic assumptions about group dynamics and collaborative work, it is important to understand that this project is somewhat pedagogy neutral -- it is a physical space that is being designed to accommodate studentsŐ needs. It will be ultimately up to faculty and students to determine how best to use these spaces in learning. A large portion of this project's intent is to study how faculty and students utilize this space in academic projects, and also to study how students use the space for non-academic purposes. This will help give us a better understanding of the value of group projects and will help shape future versions of the Flyspace concept.