First up, what is the LX.lab?
The LX.lab (short for Learner eXperience Lab) sits in Building 6, no doubt you’ve passed it walking through the DAB courtyard. Its glass exterior houses a hub of activity - a space where academic staff access learning and teaching support, seek advice and share ideas.
What characterises the space is its speedy Apple Store-esque service, thanks to a team of twelve, including seven learning designers, who are on hand to offer advice to anyone who ventures inside. To top it off, they host weekly workshops and meet-ups.
The LX team’s face-to-face support is complemented by an online presence, known as ‘Futures’. Futures is home to academic curated blog posts about teaching from by UTS academics, learning and teaching inspo, how-to resources, and events registration. It also hosts a ‘Live chat support’, for those times when Building 6 is too far, or quick help is needed.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education & Students) Shirley Alexander says in creating the lab UTS wanted to ensure that new and existing staff could get access to the teaching support they need to keep innovating the way they teach and the technologies they need to do that. “Importantly, we wanted academics to be able to access the support they needed easily and quickly. Academics are often time poor – so a physical and online space that offers immediate help was critical.” she says.
The lab’s design brief was for an environment that’s inviting, open and accessible. As Project Manager Deborah Bates explains, the idea was “…to create a vibe where you feel like you can drop in at any time and find people on hand to answer queries or just set yourself up at a desk and get to work.” (read more about the design)
The space in action
Senior lecturer in FASS, Jane Hunter, first accessed the lab’s services when she was paired with one of the LX.lab’s resident learning tech gurus, Ollie Coady, to look at ways to create a blog site to house student work. This initial interaction soon grew, with Jane now a regular in the space.
"If I’m struggling with a particular technology, the team at the LX.lab offer what I term ‘elbow-to-elbow’ support. I can sit down, coffee in hand, with a learning technologist, and talk through the problem I’m trying to solve.” Jane has since attended a number of informal talks in the lab. “It's also really important for us to see what our colleagues are doing in other faculties...we can learn a lot from each other. The lab, and importantly the team running it, is a great conduit through which to make those connections.”
Lucy Arthur, Manager of the LX.lab, is thrilled with the engagement so far. “People will come for a single talk or event, but once it’s ended, they’ll stick around. They might chat with other staff in the space, pick the brain of one of our learning technologists. And that’s the idea behind what we’ve tried to create, a fluid space, nothing formal, that’s open to all.”
And for new starters, the lab’s a human guide book for who to see, where to go, and which systems to use. “We want to create a welcoming space for new staff, especially casual staff”, explains Lucy. “A space where new academics can drop in and talk to someone who has connections across the uni – to decode what's available to them at UTS and immediately feel part of a community”.
“A one-stop-shop where new academics can drop in and talk to someone who has connections across the uni – a space to decode what's available to them at UTS and immediately feel part of a community”.
The next six-months
The most recent addition to the LX.lab concept is the Academic in Residence (AiR) program. The program sponsors a teaching academic to join the lab for six months and create a community of practice around their work, and receive project support from the LX.lab team. This session, the team were joined by Associate Professor Ilaria Vanni Accargi, who has been exploring 'place-based methodologies'. The AiR model aims to unearth specialist knowledge to share across the uni, enabling other academics and staff to benefit from diverse faculty expertise. For the next six-months, says Lucy, “I want us to appoint more academics in residence to bring that knowledge into the lab”.
The team is also looking to get involved with innovative learning and teaching initiatives and build connections across faculties and units. “We’re fixed on a cross disciplinary approach, to connect people working across learning and teaching projects throughout the uni. We don’t want the knowledge to just bubble away in faculties, let’s bring the knowledge out and make it accessible to all”
Not surprisingly, this service-based model is proving popular. A research-focused collaboration with the LX.lab team – which will be known as the ‘RES Hub’ – is set to take place in the second half of this year. Inspired by the LX.lab, the RES Hub will bring together many of the high-quality research training and support services already taking place around campus in one place. Lucy, who’s been consulting with the research team says “this is an amazing opportunity to work together to make these services more visible and share learnings”. So if you do research at UTS, watch this space.
Not yet stopped by? Here's why you should make the trip to Building 6:
- Access ‘elbow-to-elbow’ assistance with learning design and technology staff – book ahead online, or simply walk-in.
- Join one of many communities of practice – with regular meet-ups for Virtual Reality enthusiasts, careers support, learning design, and faculty focused groups.
- Connect with the wider learning and teaching community – it’s a great place to start if you’re new to teaching at UTS!
- Attend daily workshops and events – such as ‘Twitter for academics”, “Intro to Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality’, and ‘How to collaborate with Microsoft teams” etc.
- Make use of the hot desks and meeting space (Plus, they're close to coffee:)
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