Social Learning Spaces and Student Engagement

Kelly E. Matthews
Victoria Andrews
Peter Adams


Notable gains have been made in understanding the factors that influence the student experience in higher education, particularly in the area of student engagement. While tremendous effort has been focused on identifying educationally beneficial activities for students, we must also consider where these activities are occurring. In recent years there have been technological advances that have paved the way for blended learning environments, however, physical learning environments continue to dominate the functionality of many universities. The development of purpose?built informal social learning spaces as a strategy to enhance the student experience is becoming more prevalent, although empirical research in this area is lacking. This study explores the role of social learning spaces on the student experience using the student engagement framework within a qualitative research design. Informal interviews with 103 students were conducted within a social learning space. Findings reveal that social learning spaces can contribute to enhanced student engagement by fostering active learning, social interaction and belonging amongst tertiary students. The study also suggests that design is a contributing factor to students' perceptions of social learning spaces.


First?year experience, Higher education, Learning spaces, Student engagement, Transition

APA Citation

Matthews, K. E., Andrews, V., & Adams, P. (2011). Social learning spaces and student engagement. Higher Education Research & Development, 30(2), 105-120.

About the Study

Links to Article
Publication Type Journal Article
In Publication Higher Education Research & Development
Type of Research Qualitative
Research Design Interviews
Intervention/Areas of Study
Level of Analysis Student-level
Specific Populations Examined
Peer-Reviewed Yes
Specific Institutional Characteristics of Interest K-12
Specific Course or Program Characteristics
Outcome Variables of Interest
Student Sample Size 100-199
Citing Articles,50&sciodt=0,50&hl=en