Member storyStudents at Basingstoke College of Technology use an interactive whiteboard in a LaunchSpace room.

“A glimpse into the future”: Basingstoke College of Technology’s pioneering LaunchSpace facility

Basingstoke College of Technology (BCoT) is bringing the future of digital learning to the present with LaunchSpace, a set of digitally enhanced suites which enable practical, skills-based learning and cater to industry demands.

LaunchSpace’s unique learning environment gives students practical experience and nurtures essential skills for the workplace. So far, over 2000 students have benefited from the dynamic learning opportunities LaunchSpace offers.

LaunchSpace: the art of the possible

BCoT’s head of digital learning, Scott Hayden, doesn’t just talk about LaunchSpace sat at his desk, he very literally walks us through it, showing us the variety of purpose-built facilities for his students, staff, and the local community.

LaunchSpace is the antithesis of a typical classroom with its rows of desks headed by a teacher. Scott shows us how the rooms are designed with community and collaboration in mind.

The space acts as “preparation for what our industry expert teachers and their local connections need it to be, for example, flexible, agile, collaborative, dynamic, working alongside different people.” He adds:

Scott Hayden

“This area, the way it's designed, is like a glimpse of the future for all of our learners.”

Scott also sees the value of collaboration in the work that we do; he speaks of the value of being able to share stories of development in the Jisc student experience experts group and how this motivated his digital transformation initiative.

He credits Sarah Knight, our head of learning and teaching transformation, for enabling opportunities that have changed his career, saying,

“The art of the possible, which Jisc shows us, has been transformative.”

Creating LaunchSpace

A main element of LaunchSpace’s success he attributes to his colleagues, especially the principal Anthony Bravo, who supported the college to test new ways of learning.

He also speaks of the challenges of creating LaunchSpace, which was being built at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic from student turned learning technologist Holly Hunt’s design plans. Trevor Ridley, the head of estates at BCoT, was behind the logistics of creating the project in this difficult period, and Scott emphasises the value of student, staff, and employer collaboration in the making of LaunchSpace.

Built in collaboration with Enterprise M3, who match funded the project through the Local Enterprise Partnership, LaunchSpace strives to improve the local community through prioritising industry-based learning and involving local businesses in education.

LaunchSpace is led by industry expertise and Scott sees this relationship as a key element of vocational learning:

“We are working increasingly with local industry, small to medium enterprises and businesses to come and work alongside our students to enrich the curriculum, to provide meaningful work experience.”

The value of industry and community

LaunchSpace has forged a relationship with local industry whereby a local business can give a brief, a task, or sponsor an assignment to give student’s learning tangible, real-world significance.

Currently, students at BCoT are busy saving Christmas; they are fixing up Santa’s sleigh to be taken around Basingstoke in December. The project is facilitated by LaunchSpaces’ facilities and a local business, Lightcast.

Students from different courses are coming together for this project: construction students are fixing the sleigh, their automotive students are helping to fix the car that pulls it, and the media students are telling the story via social media.

LaunchSpace enables students to make a difference in their community and foster positive, lasting relationships with businesses. Scott emphasises the importance of this collaboration,

“That community connection is everything. Further education has to strengthen its connection with local industry.”

The effect on students and staff

Teachers have seen tangible effects on students' behaviour due to the professional environment of LaunchSpace.

“It feels different to school. It's what they say straight away. It's a professional space.”

LaunchSpace has also enabled staff to adjust their delivery to focus more upon independent learning and groupwork, rather than a typical lecturing dynamic.

“It's more agile and adaptive which is encouraging our teachers to take more risks and to try new things.”

This then empowers their learners to lead and manage projects, and cultivate skills for the workplace.

Scott’s digital team are always close by to support teachers and students in classrooms and staffrooms, which he sees as essential in such a digitally advanced environment. The team offers not only technological support, but also advice on using technology deliberately and mindfully.

“Our digital wellbeing strategy has at the heart of it this constant support and help for staff and students to reconsider our relationship with technology.”

His intention is to encourage students to use technology, but also to allow them to develop healthy relationships with tech.

Making technology work for your students

After LaunchSpace was up and running, BCoT used our digital elevation tool to map and assess their college’s technological journey so far and validate the decisions they had made concerning LaunchSpace.

Scott’s advice to colleges intending to follow a similar path is to prototype on a small scale, for example, in a room that isn’t being used as a first step, and to ask for user feedback along every step of the process.

He advises to “start small, low risk, low cost” and to use cheap solutions such as chromecast or chromebooks, or simply making furniture more moveable to start the process.

BCoT started this process in its library.

“[We started] bringing in one or two items, just low cost, what we've got, what we could afford, and just observing, getting feedback from the user iterating, adapting, and then from that growing.”

It is a constant process of adaption, feedback and adjustment to create a viable, tech rich environment such as LaunchSpace.

However, it is a process that Scott recognises the need of:

“Always listen to the user rather than projecting our own middle-aged perspectives on what the room should be, which we got wrong for many years. Many people did. We need to ask, ‘What do they need for the future?’”

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