Academology: Social Studies

Friday, 20 March, 2015

When the dreaded exam time comes around each semester, The Spot transforms into a hub of concentration at night. Students stay late, only to exit the building in the hours of the early morning — and maybe before then for the occasional cross-campus coffee run.

When people think of study areas, they often think of libraries. But providing social study spaces is also critical – and many places around campus try to mesh the casual atmosphere of a meeting place with the sombre mood of study.

“Having other people study with you makes it more bearable. You have the energy to keep going because you motivate and entertain each other in the breaks,” says Katie Rowbottom, a third year Arts student.

While it may not always be beneficial, a social aspect to study can definitely lighten the mood. However, the quality study is only as effective as its location. Ideal study conditions should stimulate discussion and collective enthusiasm when studying as a group.

Social study spaces both on their own and within libraries, such as the Arts West lower ground complex, the Biomedical Library’s ground floor and The Spot, have seen enormous take-up from students, for both academic and social circumstances.

Universities are now attempting to create more of these conditions. The University is undertaking a $66.1 million renovation of the educational resources within the Arts West building complex, aiming to improving student amenity and social opportunity.

“By consolidating our teaching into a common location, the new Arts West building will create a sense of community through the establishment of more student-focused informal work and social spaces in the Arts precinct,” according to a recent statement from the Faculty of Arts.

The University appears to have had this ethos in mind when designing and eventually opening the new Melbourne School of Design building. Upon entering the building, you are welcomed into an open and intentionally social space. Sofas are spread among the wooden panelling, and the opportunity for social and educational engagement continues on the high floors.

Tom Kvan, Dean of Architecture, Building and Planning, claims the learning aspect of the building is inviting to people of all educational disciplines. “The spatial organisation of the School is open and transparent, allowing engagement across research and learning activities,” he says.

The ideal educational resources, though of high importance, do not optimise the study process alone. It is also the ability to foster a sense of community and social engagement which makes an organic study environment. Faculties, when considering renovations, should aim to develop communal spaces which have opened multiple educational and social functions. The capacity to facilitate a discussion within a study area is essential to nurture academic growth.