This chapter analyzes the state of learning spaces as they impact career and technical education. Relevant theories and models about physical learning spaces transfer to e-learning spaces. Critical features for planning e-learning spaces are detailed, and current trends in designing e-learning spaces are noted.
Space impacts teaching and learning, whether that space is explicitly considered or not (Strange & Banning, 2001). Indeed, educator John Dewey stated back in 1933 that “whether we permit chance environments to do the work, or whether we design environments for the purpose makes a great difference” (p. 22), asserting that educational settings are better served by specificity rather than serendipity. In his meta-analysis of environmental impact on human behavior, Moos (1986) determined that “the arrangement of environments is perhaps the most powerful technique we have for influencing human behavior” (p. 4).
Traditionally, higher education has thought of learning space in terms of formal education: classrooms and lecture halls that fostered one-way communication. Even some professionals in career and technical education (CTE) think of training rooms with presenters or self-paced learning modules. Informal CTE often used an apprenticeship model, whereby the novice shadowed the master craftsman within a physical space. However, today’s administrators are realizing the impact of informal, social learning and the spaces wherein that occurs: cafeterias, halls, even parking lots (Jamieson, 2003; Johnson & Lomas, 2005). Be it in the classroom or in the parking lot, during office hours or during a weekend theatrical event, CTE learning occurs and is shaped by the environment.
Lombardi (2005) asserts that post-secondary campuses offer prospective students an experience of education. They “promote themselves, first and foremost, as places with people [author’s emphasis]. The physical campus sets up the enabling conditions for a complex social ecology to emerge over time” (p. 1). Similarly, professional work settings exemplify complex social structures that impact induction into the field.
With the advent of the Internet, and more specifically Web 2.0, the world of pre- and in-service CTE has changed dramatically. Increasingly, adult students are learning at a distance, often using course management systems. Likewise, companies are developing digital corporate intelligence infrastructures. Although millions of adults, especially the millennial generation, engage in social networking, those connections largely consist of personal connections. Paradoxically, online environments can inhibit social learning, particularly individuals who are new to the field and have not developed professional social networks. Older adults, in particular, can feel isolated and alienated from their peers and supervisors when learning and working online. Certainly it makes sense to examine and plan e-learning spaces purposefully in order to optimize CTE experiences.Top
With the incorporation of digital technology, the definition of learning spaces has changed. Increasingly, the space in which learning occurs has broadened to include cyberspace as well as physical space. Indeed, several scholars focus entirely on virtual learning spaces (e.g., Bayne, 2004; Sheremetov & Nunez, 1999; Stauss, 2002).