Synthetic Campuses and the Contemporary Digital Kaleidoscope of Learning

Georgiana Varna*, Michael Crilly

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

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This paper is part of a larger body of work being undertaking regarding the idea of ’the University’, as a collaborative space of learning, knowledge production and dissemination and how this idea has evolved beyond the restrictions of physical space into other forms of synthetic virtual and digital environments. The paper explores the impact of digitalisation on urban campus spaces since the 1990s through a series of detailed comparative case studies looking at a series of different institutions and their approach to balancing physical and virtual learning.

The contrasting conceptual models of learning are explained through a kaleidoscope of ideas observed in a series of mixed case studies, including;

The Red Brick Universities of Glasgow and Newcastle are explored as two traditional institutions that share key similarities in their global and local urban economic regeneration visions and ambitions for their home cities, their experiences of large campus re-development and expansion schemes, and their establishment of locality specific urban partnerships. We analysis the radical shift to online-only survival mode activities during the height of the Covid19 pandemic and more recent shared experiences in re-establishing synchronous, collaborative, and heuristic learning.

Global Campus expansion experiences of the new universities of Northumbria (London & Amsterdam) and Heriot-Watt (Dubai) and the declining benefits of colocation within an individual location.

The specific Open University experiences of established remote and part-time learning, moving from ‘broadcast’ to ‘multimedia’, and then to physical campus development at Milton Keynes and the business impacts of many traditional institutions reducing the niche in this way of delivering structured learning.

The experiences of ‘Second Life’, massive open online courses (MOOCs) and other virtual environments being used as platforms for established educational institutions.

The case studies present new forms of hybrid ‘synthetic campuses’ emerging in the 21st century from academic institutions that go beyond the physical learning space and that are being hosted in a variety of online rooms / shared virtual platforms, being both ‘live’ and recorded, present a rationale of business proposition for broader ‘open’ access, and the critical need for further research into ‘university urbanism’ studies.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 23 Jun 2023
EventThe Synthetic City Conference: Exploring the impact of AI abd digital media on urban living - Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 6 Sept 20237 Sept 2023​


ConferenceThe Synthetic City Conference
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