A Learning Zone experience!

Preston’s College has really made the most of the recent £3m update creating a development, the In-Zone flexible learning environment, based around enterprise, encouraging learners to develop business ideas and skills. As part of a wider investment programme which includes a £13m Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths facility, the In-Zone consists of four areas: the Enterprise Zone, Chill Zone, Learning Zone and Careers Zone. Each zone is designed specifically with the learners needs in mind, whether they want to practice pitching a business idea in one of the presentation rooms, grab a coffee and hang out, do some private studying or get help working out where they want to go next in life.

It was as the initial funding was made available for the new development that the Library team saw an opportunity to add the very best in Library technology to the wish list for the Learning Zone. Karen Acham, the Learning Resources Coordinator prepared a case for self-service, with the freeing of library staff from the mundane managing of stock an important aspect. This would enable them to spend time with students, particularly as 10% of the student’s learning needs to be outside the classroom.

The tender process proved challenging as four of the leading suppliers were in close contention. However, the experience and ability to personalize the software along with and the ability to upgrade when required gave 2CQR the edge.

Karen was keen to point out “I had worked with 2CQR during my career at other colleges was aware of their strengths, particularly in managing installation, training and ongoing service delivery” “I was not disappointed as the project was pretty painless and despite some of our construction issues 2CQR were happy to accommodate the revised timescales”

Making the learning zone both a desirable and relaxing environment was very important. The architect had specific colour combination she wished to use and was delighted with the customised purple self-service Totems that emitted a green glow to match the PC vending units. While the Totems made a strong visual presence the security gates were clear and unobtrusive, enhancing the larger than life wall illustrations created by the art students.

Tagging and training, managed by 2CQR was problem free. “Frighteningly efficient” to quote Karen.

“And with over 100 PCs available, 20 tablets and 10 laptops available on a self service basis, plus 2CQR adding a personalised module to talk to our MiFare cards it seemed a pretty comprehensive solution”

So with three Totems, five security systems, two drop boxes and the Learning Zone Team trained all systems were go in September 2014.

With one year’s experience how have the systems, the students and the team coped? “One year in and all is good, very pleased!” Karen was happy to announce. “This year’s intake have had no problems and, as we hoped, the librarians, now Learning Zone Assistants, have not only been freed to help students but now all have teaching qualifications and offer teaching support”

With the large library management desks replaced with compact “concierce” desks the Learning Zone Assistants are more available and accessible, particularly as they also now manage students sent by tutors to the Zone for Back on Track learning.

The Library, now Learning Zone, has proved a great success providing a relaxed, well-managed and educationally successful environment.