Title:A Research Agenda for Designing Next-Generation Learning Spaces for Universities and Museums
Authors:Larry Friedlander
Publication:MW2000: Museums and the Web 2000

As technology advances, we can create increasingly sophisticated experiences in distributed environments (distributed learning refers to learning experiences in which individuals and groups of learners and instructors are separated in time and/or space), including collaborative design and learning events, shared performances and exhibits, and multi-site research and scholarly communities. Implementing these new experiences will require the invention of new kinds of spaces that integrate virtual and on-site experiences seamlessly, and that facilitate participation by many people concurrently. These new physical and technical formats will have profound implications for the way educational and cultural institutions manage space, link to the outside world, and provide services. The Stanford Learning Lab believes that learning is an outcome of communication and social interaction. The ways in which we learn are being transformed by advances in technology that alter communication and interaction. For example, facilitated by fast, reliable, high bandwidth networks a research team can be created from among experts who are physically located across the globe, and assembled only virtually. This team can meet virtually, and discuss in a virtual public conversation documents, files, drawings, video or audio artifacts etc that were privately held until prior to the meeting, modify and change this information together, re-assemble the pieces, re-claim any portion of the new documents or files all without face-to-face meeting or lapses in time. They can choose to communicate synchronously and/or they can choose to record their communication for sharing at a preferred time. Information is instantaneously accessible, and distributed. Opportunities for active and effective collaboration are limitless except as they might be constrained by time zone, ethnicity, expertise and/or cultural differences. The world of access and knowledge implied in the global collaboration suggested above is indicative of a hybrid virtual and physical environment in which most of us will learn in the next decade. The physical space will be an extension of a web of interconnected virtual environments and an extrapolation of other remote physical environments. The possibilities for learning, for collaborative making, and for intimate connections globally in such an environment are enormous. This paper outlines a three-track research program undertaken by the Stanford Learning Laboratory(SLL) to explore and define these new kinds of hybrid --- i.e. mixed virtual and physical -- environments for the support of distributed interactive experience in schools and in cultural institutions. Our goal is to design spaces for distributed activity that will support complex, socially rich, learning and will promote a sense of community amongst participants.