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User requirements and issues arising from the increased use of technology in learning environments in vocational education - (Asset strategies)

Jeff Porter

This paper will be the first of 3 interrelated papers which will be delivered this afternoon. My paper will discuss user requirements and issues arising from the increasing use of technology in learning environments in vocational education. The second paper by Mr Peter Hooper (Greenway Architects) will address the architectural implication and responses to the new user needs. The third paper by Mr Rick Harding and Steve Whyatt (Bestec Pty Ltd) will consider the provision of the technology frameworks to support the requirements of the user needs defined above. The third address will be followed by a guided inspection of the Port Adelaide Campus of the Regency Institute which is a recent example of a building planned, designed and constructed to respond to the issues of technology in the learning environment. In each of the topics there will be an identification of the issues and an expansion of the philosophical basis for the planning and design responses. Also in each session the Port Adelaide project will be used as a case study illustrating practical built responses to the planning and design objectives.


During the last decade vocational education in South Australia has under gone a revolution which has impacted on all components of its delivery and service. This has created enormous challenges for the planning and design of facilities and a recognition that there is no point in providing new facilities unless they enhance and add value to the efficiency of the operation and the effectiveness of the training programs delivered. Hence the aim of facility planning is to find a synergy between built form solutions and the corporate objectives of the organisation.

The rapid change in the contextual environment for vocational education has created a great deal of confusion for facility planners who have been striving to find solutions which meet the requirements created by continuous change. The Port Adelaide Campus is a typical example of a project which was conceptualised, planned and built within this rapidly changing environment.

Before discussing the planning approaches adopted in the Port Adelaide project it is useful to consider some of the forces and influences which were driving the planning and design.

In the mid 1980s government, industry and unions embraced an industrial reform agenda which identified the need for substantial reforms in practices and attitudes to work. There was acceptance that for future survival Australian Industry needed to become more competitive, look more towards export markets and address many of the structural inefficiencies which were embedded in an outdated industrial system. Participants in the industrial reform process all agreed that training was an important foundation stone on which to build new approaches to the organisation of work. It was argued that successful enterprises normally had invested heavily in training and it was likely that merging industries who likewise placed an importance on training as an investment would reap the rewards of being more competitive in the more sophisticated markets that were developing internationally.

As a result the Commonwealth Government embraced the training reform agenda and identified a number of objectives including:

In reaction to the training reform agenda the vocational education community embraced four interrelated initiatives which in concert provide powerful instruments for facilitating the training reform agenda. These are: In addition to the above changes there has been massive restructuring within the Department of Employment and TAFE which is responsible for the delivery of the Government funded component of the training market, and this has greatly impacted in the staffing and operational structures of the campuses of Institutes of TAFE. For example, the delegation of finance, staff, curriculum and physical resource management activities to campuses has brought with it the corresponding demand for office space, meeting rooms, interview facilities and additional staff accommodation. Although the devolution has been significant and quick it can be anticipated that further devolution will occur until ultimately Institutes approach autonomy in their operations.

Key issues in planning

It was within the above context that the creation of a campus at Port Adelaide was required to be conceptualised, planned and delivered. At first the task seemed overwhelming. In an act of desperation it was decided as an aid to more precise project definition to look at each element of the environment and to assess what impact it might have on planning and design outcomes.

Dynamic change

The rate of change made precise definition regarding future requirements extremely difficult. This was particularly so when there was no evidence that the system had reached a static state and the expectation for the future was even greater change. This lead to flexibility in planning and design as being a principal objective. The aspects of flexibility considered related to all aspects of their project.

Industry focused

Increasing operation focus on industry requirements requires that the vocational education campus interact with industry by providing advice and assistance in sponsoring off campus training. The facility implication is for spaces to allow consultation with industry to occur, to display curriculum and learning materials which enterprises may care to use in conducting training on their own premises and to provide a "feel" which is comfortable to industry. Hence, the facility should not be purely an educational facility but rather a place where business and commercial leaders can gather with a feeling that the facility reflects Et new partnership between vocational education and industry.

Student/client centred

To emphasise a client centred approach offers a challenge to create a physical environment which satisfies the needs of the students and other customers who come to the campus. Attractive entries, the ready availability of literature and information, the easy access to LRCs and learning support, the provision of acceptable cafeteria and lounge facilities and flexibility in operational hours are all key components which are required to be satisfied.

Self paced learning packages

The acceptance of the wide use of learning packages to enable the self pacing of programs for students who attend the campus or for customers who choose to learn at home or at work is a key element in the new training service. The ramifications in planning of the campus is that relatively more of the facility will be required for the production, the display, the viewing, the assessment and the sale of learning packages. As an outline from the above considerations the following instructions were provided in the architectural brief for the Port Adelaide Campus.


The extensive devolution of central functions to institutes brings with it a need for a different mix of accommodation. More space is required for administrative and learning support activities and the correct positioning of this space within the campus is critical to the effective operation.

Key briefing instructions

In response to the educational needs of the Port Adelaide regional community and to requirements to address the issues discussed above an architectural brief was prepared which gave the following primary instructions to the project and architectural teams.

Rationale for the project

Educational programs to be accommodated

The following programs are planned to be offered from the campus:

Customer focus

A commitment to customer service and more flexible education arrangements will be a feature of this campus. This commitment places significant demands upon the facilities and access opportunities. Students undertaking studies will range from full time students, part time students attending the campus at various times throughout the week, students attending in the evenings, students attending full time for short periods (ie. 2 week blocks), and students who do their studies in industry or at home and who access the facilities at weekend or late at night to use equipment, gain learning resources or to deliver completed learning tasks. Another group of students may access studies via electronic means (eg. video conferencing, computer learning and networking) and not attend the campus.

Educational methods

The Port Adelaide Campus redevelopment will provide the opportunity to incorporate a wide variety of educational methodologies. The use of alternative learning approaches is essentially aimed at providing the widest possible opportunity for the public to access learning.

Flexibility to meet customer demand is most important. This will include the ability to offer specific purpose education and training to industrial groups, lectures to large numbers, tutorials to small groups and individualised study by students who may enter a course of study as required.

The following outline provides a brief description of some of the methodologies to be accommodated.

Teacher centred learning

This is commonly referred to as the traditional mode of learning. The lecturer conducts and controls learning and provides much of the knowledge or skill required by the student.

Classes are approximately 10-20 people in size and requires the support of video equipment, instruction board, computers, audio visual displays. This approach will most often be used when the subject may be highly specific and not warranting the investment in expensive learning material development which may be used for limited periods only.

Competency based learning

Competency based learning focuses on the achievement of learning outcomes which are prescribed in performance terms within clearly defined standards. This approach may use a variety of learning methodologies and requires assessment of learning outcomes and the maintenance of records. This can be simplified by the use of computers.


Individualised learning approaches requires considerable prior preparation of learning material which focuses on the individuals ability to learn the material at their own rate independent of the progress of other students undertaking similar studies. A typical learning situation may include a number of students doing different subjects at different stages within the same area and independently in a workplace, library or home.

Computer managed learning

Computer managed learning depends upon providing the student with instruction about the learning material and tasks through a computer program and/or computer links through a modem to the college and other students. The learning is managed according to individual progress and records maintained on the computer system. This approach requires considerable development time and equipment.

Integration of methodologies

All of these methods may be used in the course of a students study. The facilities, therefore, require the flexibility to enable all methods to be used.

A student may attend the college full time for introductory studies, do some group work for team building or other human relations studies, undertake a number of modules of individualised study accessing equipment out of hours, attend specialised lectures by guest lecturers or take part in a learning session with other students throughout the state via video conferencing and complete their studies in industry using learning packages or Computer Managed Learning (CML) material.

The lecturers task is to prepare learning material as part of a team which designs and prepares such material and to manage and guide students in the use of such material, monitor progress, keep records or diagnose learning problems.

Learning technology

Learning methods as described above are becoming increasingly dependent upon a wide range of technologies and equipment. In particular, electronic equipment which enables the preparation, storage, retrieval and transmission of information will be increasingly used both for educational and administrative purposes. The campus will therefore require access to ducting which allows networking throughout the campus and be easily accessible for upgrading.

Design parameters

To address the political, economic and educational context within which the campus must operate requires a clear statement of the primary design requirements.

These objectives are listed below as a guideline for planning and design.

The above general briefing instructions were supported by functional relationship diagrams, area requirements and room/space data sheets. The aim of the brief was to provide a clear definition of requirements and to create a team culture which allowed the project and design team to find solutions which were innovative and cost effective.


Porter, J. and Gorey, A. (1992). Planning for Alternate Future Use. Port Adelaide College of Technical and Further Education. PEB Exchange.

Hooper, P. - Greenway Architects, (1991). Feasibility Study - Port Adelaide College of TAFE. Adelaide.

Physical Resources Division, Department of Employment and TAFE (1992). Architectural Brief - Port Adelaide College of TAFE. Adelaide.

Hooper, P. - Greenway Architects, (1991). Master Plan - Port Adelaide College of TAFE. Adelaide.

Physical Resources Division, Department of Employment and TAFE (1991). Port Adelaide Redevelopment - Educational Brief.

Author: Jeffrey A Porter, 21 Thiele Crescent, West Lakes Shore SA 5020

Please cite as: Porter, J. (1994). User requirements and issues arising from the increased use of technology in learning environments in vocational education - (Asset strategies). In J. Steele and J. G. Hedberg (eds), Learning Environment Technology: Selected papers from LETA 94, 243-247. Canberra: AJET Publications.

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