Skip to main content

Revolutionising learning spaces: adapting virtual environments to meet the needs of today’s learners

  • 5 Min Read

As many students now learn through a blended approach—a hybrid mix of in-person and online—how can educators ensure a single, cohesive learning experience? Physical and virtual environments have their own characteristics, but a learning platform can bridge the divide for effective and engaging learning.

Lisa Elliott

Adapting to meet the needs and expectations of today’s learners is the subject of our upcoming webinar on February 28, 11am GMT. In the session, our D2L host, alongside thought leader and education consultant Neil Mosley and leaders from top higher education institutions, will discuss how to embrace change and adopt new tools.

Virtual |

New Year, New Tools, New Rules

Together, we’ll explore:

  • Strategies for Creating a Student-Centric Learning Experience
  • The Role of Data in Decision-making
  • Leveraging Technology to Improve Student Outcomes
  • Encouraging Student Ownership in the Learning Process
Register Now for the New Year, New Tools, New Rules webinar

Why revolutionise learning spaces?

Educators adopt a range of teaching models to achieve the best student outcomes. Online enables flexible learning because students can access course materials and more from wherever they are, whilst blended learning combines in-person with online.

Some educators take a flipped classroom approach, whereby students consume information outside the classroom and come to class ready to discuss what they have learnt. Information isn’t presented only through textbooks or class handouts. It can be video or audio files and can be accessed online through a learning platform.

Students’ expectations of how, when and where they learn have changed in the digital age. Jisc’s Student digital experience insights survey 2022/23 surveyed over 27,000 higher education students in the UK and discovered that 89% were provided with at least some online teaching. Over three quarters (79%) used technology for learning on campus, whilst 88% did so at home.

We are all used to simple and intuitive digital platforms. We interact with companies online through portals that house all account information in one place. The virtual learning environment, or learning platform, can deliver a similar experience for study, with a single cohesive environment for course content and administration.

Learning spaces are environments where students take on new information, explore existing knowledge further, interact with peers and educators to deepen their comprehension, and test their understanding in assessments. These can be physical or virtual environments; they will most likely be both and can be so simultaneously.

The learning platform provides a bridge between classroom and personal study and a framework for coursework, interaction, assessment, feedback and course information.

It supports a holistic pedagogical approach that can seamlessly combine physical and virtual learning spaces to optimise learner outcomes. The key is to place the learner at the centre of the experience, start with clear learning outcome goals, and provide adaptable and personalised learning pathways to get students there.

How do you design learning spaces?

The goal is successful learner outcomes across physical and virtual learning environments, but how do you design learning spaces to achieve that? Here are our tips to foster engagement in both realms:

Take a holistic approach to learning content

Content should be designed with the user in mind. How will they access it? How do they engage with it? In the classroom, a single image may support discussion, but how will it work online? Content must be effective in the context of how and when it will be consumed. The goal is engaging learning, every time, and many factors will contribute to this, including how relevant and accessible it is and how it encourages interaction.

Gamify and make learning interactive

Gamification means applying game mechanics to learning activities. This can take the form of awarding points or badges and generating levels that learners move through. Interaction can be through in-person discussion in the classroom. Online, it can be through forums and breakout learning groups and chat functions that generate a sense of community and help students deepen their engagement with content.

Be inclusive and accessible

Learning spaces must be designed to be inclusive and accessible in the physical and virtual environment. Digital tools, platforms and content must cater for all user accessibility considerations, including those around visual, auditory, motor and cognitive abilities. Pay attention to:

  • Text: Is it easy to read? Can the size be increased and can it be read by screen readers?
  • Images: Do they carry appropriate “alt text” descriptors for screen readers?
  • Video and audio: Are text/audio description options available?

Balance flexibility and structure

Flexible learning spaces adapt to changing educational needs, but it is still important to maintain a structured and conducive environment for effective learning. A consistent online structure can be achieved through course templates that standardise layout, navigation, look and feel, and common content. That way, students can more easily find information and educators can save time laying out their course content.

D2L customer South Island Distance Education School (SIDES) introduced templates for all its courses, empowering teachers to quickly customise content to students’ needs. Sally Morgan, course development coordinator, says: “We have graphic designers who work with the content, but teachers also find it very simple to make changes themselves. Most of our course developers feel comfortable using the course-builder features to adjust existing content and create new units, and some even write content directly into the D2L Brightspace platform. This ease of use has allowed us to create truly engaging content for our students, with audio, videos and interactive features that help students learn in an active way.”

Join us to discuss the student-centric learning experience

To explore strategies for creating student-centric learning experiences further, join us on February 28, 11am–12pm GMT, for our New Year, New Rules, New Tools webinar.

Our panel will be hosted by Rob Telfer, director of higher education EMEA at D2L, alongside renowned thought leader and education consultant Neil Mosley, who will be joined by Nawaal Deane of University of Cape Town and Dr Gelareh Roushan-Easton of Bournemouth University. The webinar promises an insightful conversation on how top institutions successfully embrace change, adopt new tools and encourage student ownership of learning.

How can D2L help?

The modern learning platform can provide a feature-rich, online learning environment, with the capability to deliver personalised learning pathways that bridge classroom and personal study. An e-learning authoring tool is the ideal way to create engaging online learning content without the need for specialist skills or long development times. To find out how, take a look at Creator+ for D2L Brightspace.

Written by:

Lisa Elliott

Stay in the know

Educators and training pros get our insights, tips, and best practices delivered monthly

Table of Contents

  1. Why revolutionise learning spaces?
  2. How do you design learning spaces?
  3. Join us to discuss the student-centric learning experience
  4. How can D2L help?