UCL Grand Challenges


Building Back Better: Developing New Hybrid Learning Spaces for Post-pandemic Higher Education

An academic-professional collaboration to explore the effects of the pandemic on students' learning space and wellbeing.

1 September 2021


Grant: Grand Challenges Small Grants
Year awarded: 2021-22
Amount awarded: £4,990


  • Prof Allison Littlejohn, Institute of Education
  • Benjamin Meunier, Library Services (OVPRIGE)

Lockdown conditions during the pandemic highlighted the differential experiences of students, often based on socio-economic status. The need for informal and technology-rich learning spaces on campus - both in the library and elsewhere - is especially relevant for the wellbeing of students living in small rooms or shared accommodation in London, where housing is at a premium; and for disabled students who have been shown to benefit from hybrid modes of study. This cross-disciplinary team brings together the knowledge and practice needed to drive forward action research with practical outcomes to address this issue. The aims of the study are to:

  • Better understand how UCL students are negotiating the changing space, time and technologies of pandemic-inflected hybrid teaching and learning, using survey and focus group activities;
  • Explore the diverse and differential effects of the pandemic on students' access to quality learning spaces, and their associated health and wellbeing, highlighting areas of increased inequality that urgently need to be addressed;
  • Use Rapid Evidence Assessment of existing literature to summarise existing informal learning space taxonomies and good practice examples (from individual scholarly study to collaborative group work) in universities, libraries and other informal learning environments such as in museums and galleries;
  • Work with UCL Estates and ISD to trial small-scale learning space adaptations, primarily through furniture and IT equipment, that aim to support hybrid learning
  • Undertake knowledge exchange internationally with informal learning space providers through an online event and social media channels;
  • Compile a report outlining future taxonomies for informal learning spaces that can effectively support hybrid learning.

This can have both direct impact on UCL students' learning and wellbeing, through concrete small-scale improvements to their informal learning environments, and can inform educational practices more widely.

Outputs and Impacts

  • Awaiting outputs and impacts.