As final part of the project "New Approaches for Inclusive Informal Learning Spaces (NIILS)" a three-day event including an international conference took place from 19 to 21 June at several venues in Krems and Vienna. The thematic focus was on the transformation of learning spaces and learning environments in the context of societal changes and technological trends. The main emphasis was on recent findings on the role of informal learning spaces in higher education. The international conference was organized in cooperation with the network UniNEtZ beWEGt.


Day 1: Consortium meeting and project visit

The first day of the event took the NIILS consortium to informal learning spaces in schools and public spaces in Vienna's 10th district, guided by Anja Aichinger und Karin Harather (Vienna University of Technology, TU Wien). The locations were adapted by pupils and students of architecture as part of "Bildungsräume in Bewegung (BibLab)” - an FFG-funded innovation laboratory - and are now available for learning activities and exchanges with local residents. A subsequent tour on the TU Wien campus provided insights into the range of informal learning spaces in the main building and adjacent facilities of the university in the Karlsplatz area.


Day 2: International Conference at Campus Krems

On the 2nd day the International Conference started in a hybrid format. The event was moderated by Tania Berger and supported by Martina Placht, Martina Kossl and Silvia Kunstel (all University for Continuing Education, UWK). The first program item was a video greeting from the Dean of the Faculty of Education, Arts and Architecture Stefan Oppl followed by opening remarks of the project coordinator Christina Ipser (UWK). The keynote speech was given by  Benjamin Cleveland, University of Melbourne (Australia), Learning Environments Applied Research Network (LEARN), who gave  insights into projects to improve informal learning environments in Australia.

After introduction words on the ideas-development and preliminary projects of NIILS by Gregor Radinger and Christina Ipser, the consortium presented the main results and findings, that have emerged from the research activities. It started with two insights on “The Role of Informal Learning Spaces in Higher Education: Key Findings from a Multidisciplinary Perspective”. Filiz Keser Aschenberger and Sonja Brachtl (UWK) gave an insight into the stakeholder perspective on inclusive informal learning spaces in higher education. The partners of Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft Berlin (HTWB) Katja Ninnemann, Jennifer Schneidt and Susanne Geister presented the impact of informal learning spaces on students’ experiences and strategies to support users’ needs.

After a coffee break, three more insights followed on the topic “Promoting Inclusive Informal Learning Spaces: Approaches and Strategies Considering Diverse Stakeholder Groups”. Partners from Sapienza University Rome (SAP) Tommaso Empler and Adriana Caldarone gave an insight into promoting informal learning spaces with digital mapping. Gintarė Gulevičiūtė from Mykolas Romeris University Vilnius (MRU) presented the creation of learning communities to support informal learning spaces and Evrim Çetinkaya Yıldız from Akdeniz University Antalya (AKD) shared recommendations and guidelines to promote inclusive and supportive informal learning spaces. Their importance for universities and synergies with the UN Sustainable Developement Goals (SDGs) were emphasized by the Vice-Rector for Research and Sustainable Developement Viktoria Weber and the Dean of the Faculty of Business and Globalisation Gerald Steiner (UWK). These contributions concluded the morning session.

The afternoon was dedicated to workshops and walkshops to explore in depth the various challenges and solutions related to the design, provision and use of inclusive, innovative and sustainable learning spaces and environments. The workshops included a poster walk, presented by the NIILS project consortium and Noella Edelmann (UWK). For online participants, a virtual poster walk was provided on the MURAL platform, with the possibility to add comments and experiences on this topic.

In parallel a walkshop, organized by the UniNEtZ beWEGt network, took place to reflect on the NIILS key results and findings during a walk on the campus. This program item was supervised by Franziska Allerberger, University of Innsbruck and Eva-Maria Holzinger, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna.

Tobias Ley, Marlene Wagner and Gerti Pishtari (UWK) presented the Innovation Laboratory for Designing and Testing New Teaching and Learning Scenarios (InnoTELL). Two more Pop-up Walk- and Workshops were organized by the UniNEtZ beWEGt network:  Christine Rottenbacher amd Stefanie Kotrba (UWK) invited participants to discover the biodiversity at the campus. In addition, Stefanie Preiml (University of Klagenfurt) and Mira Simon (UniNEtZ, forum n) invited participants to explore informal learning environments in university and school gardens.

The NIILS consortium guided participants on several campus-tours to demonstrate and discuss different qualities of indoor and outdoor informal learning spaces and new work offices.

Day 2 ended with closing notes and a get together for further exchange.


Day 3: Excursions to informal learning spaces in Vienna

On the 3rd day guided tours to informal learning spaces at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) and University of Economics and Business (WU Wien) were conducted and offered different approaches to the design, management and use of informal learning spaces.

In conclusion, the event was a success, providing more than 70 participants with insights into current developments in informal learning spaces at universities, a lively exchange between the participants and the opportunity to experience informal learning spaces first hand at four different universities.

The NIILS Consortium would like to thank all participants for their active participation and for sharing their experiences and visions for improving informal learning environments in higher education.

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