Physical Teaching Spaces

The Situation 

Post COVID-19, the experience of teaching spaces matters more than ever, as students and teaching staff alike place increasing value in dynamic in-person learning experiences that are enhanced by the social and digital capabilities of their physical environments. At the University, AV lecture capture and digital learning environments such as Canvas or Microsoft Teams are widely used across departments. This means that IT/AV design and support in physical spaces impacts strongly on the inclusivity, interactivity, and interoperability of teaching and learning experiences across departments. 

Key Findings 

  • Spatial capacities: There is a wide spectrum of quality and capabilities of the University’s teaching spaces between well-resourced and less-resourced departments, which impact staff and students’ perceptions of support, inclusion, and equity across learning environments. Despite widespread student support for lecture capture, only 264 of 665 teaching spaces have registered remote recorders (Panopto). Less than half of all stakeholders believe all their teaching spaces are fit for purpose: only 35% of Heads of Department and Heads of Administration and Finance, perceive all their teaching spaces as digitally and pedagogically fit, while less than 50% of teaching staff feel their teaching spaces support their pedagogic styles, and 33% of students say the technology in their spaces often fails.  

  • Standards, support, and digital pedagogy: The University currently has no minimum quality standards for digital and pedagogical fitness of its teaching spaces, including with regard to inclusivity, sustainability, and readiness for digitally mediated pedagogical practice. Most departments have upgraded their teaching spaces in the last 3 years, and over 50% plan to upgrade in the next 12 months without central guidance or aligned strategic goals. Data from interviews with department and administration heads, IT services, CTL, and Estates indicate strong support for multi-agency dialogue to develop centralised guidelines for upgrading teaching spaces for inclusive practice across the University.  

  • Student experience: Teaching spaces play an increasingly important role in both the social and academic learning experiences of students. Even though the University has fully returned to in-person teaching post-pandemic, students spend more time immersed in digital learning environments than ever before. The central themes of community and choice were dominant in student focus groups reflections, showing that students expect the University’s teaching spaces and pedagogical styles to support meaningful, connected learning experiences. A majority (85%) of students surveyed after the return to in-person teaching agree or strongly agree that the option of modality is important. Interview and survey data show that students particularly value quality lecture capture for the flexibility and accommodation of varied learning needs that it offers. 

The Recommendations 

Three high-level actions in the short, medium, and long-term to enable the equitable, inclusive, innovative digital transformation of the University’s teaching spaces:  

  • Multi-agency approach: Create a senior business change manager position to develop and pilot baseline standards for inclusive teaching spaces. The multi-agency approach will work with and across departments to support DTP culture change for teaching spaces across the university. Establish a multi-agency steering group of key stakeholder groups and academics to develop a methodology to evaluate and upgrade the least pedagogically and digitally fit teaching spaces, or approximately 40-60 teaching spaces. 

  • Funding for inclusive teaching spaces for all: Working with Estates & TSCG to make a proposal to the Minor Capital Plan to upgrade learning spaces that are sub-baseline to meet the standards outlined in Action 1 above and increase utilisation and support sustainability development goals. Minor upgrades can be supported by the Small Works Framework. Improve equity, inclusion and belonging in teaching and learning across the University by ensuring that all physical spaces are equipped to support the needs of the 26.5% of Oxford students with a student support plan (DAS). As well as working with CTL to develop support for teaching staff and students to promote innovative digital pedagogies and inclusive teaching practices. 

  • Innovation and transformative culture: Hire subject matter experts to the steering group to: 

    • Advance the institutional dialogue on using digital technology to support innovative teaching practices, inclusive learning experiences, and sustainable teaching spaces. 
    • Advance international research on digital spatial pedagogies and environmentally conscious physical teaching spaces. 
    • Maintain Oxford’s advantages in the field of higher education in the face of intensifying global competition for students and academics. 


Student Union, Disability Advisory Service (DAS), consultancy groups for undergrads and the postgrads, UAS, Centre for teaching and learning, heads of departments, administrators, teaching staff and Kerr Gardiner. HoD/HAF, Academic/Tutor, HoIT,HoAV, HoEMS 

The Initatives

The Proposed Initiatives in the Next Phase

The proposed initiatives in relation to this area, included in the business case for the next phase of Digital Transformation, are: 

  • Physical teaching spaces intervention to consult on and confirm requirements for 'getting the basics right' and aim to secure collaborative funding to upgrade sub-standard teaching spaces and address gaps in provision. 

Ideas for the future

Develop and pilot Inclusive Teaching Spaces:  A 18-24 months DTP ‘Inclusive Teaching Spaces’ project using a multi-agency approach to develop, pilot and implement Inclusive Teaching Spaces standards for Oxford University. A full evaluation of current teaching spaces with Estates and CTL to identify spaces that are below baseline standards and work actively with departments to understand their specific pedagogic needs and upgrade spaces with a new unified approach to optimise utilisation and promote innovative digital pedagogy and inclusive, equitable learning experiences for students.  


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