Laboratories transformation

Rasmussen, Gary N., Dawes, Les, & James, Jonathan (2015) Laboratories transformation. In Oo, Aman & Patel, Arun (Eds.) Proceedings of the 26th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education, School of Engineering, Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria.

View at publisher



Laboratories provide the physical spaces for engineering students to connect with theory and have a personal hands-on learning experience. Learning space design and development is well established in many universities however laboratories are often not part of that movement. While active, collaborative and group learning pedagogies are all key words in relation to these new spaces the concepts have always been central to laboratory based learning. The opportunity to build on and strengthen good practice in laboratories is immense.

In the 2001 review “Universities in Crisis” many references are made to the decline of laboratories. One such comment in the review was made by Professor Ian Chubb (AVCC), who in 2013, as Chief Scientist for Australia, identifies the national concern about STEM education and presents a strategic plan to address the challenges ahead. What has been achieved and changed in engineering teaching and research laboratories in this time?


A large number of universities in Australia and New Zealand own laboratory and other infrastructure designed well for the era they were built but now showing signs of their age, unable to meet the needs of today’s students, limiting the effectiveness of learning outcomes and presenting very low utilisation rates. This paper will present a model for new learning space design that improves student experience and engagement, supporting academic aims and significantly raising the space utilisation rate.


A new approach in laboratory teaching and research including new management has been adopted by the engineering disciplines at QUT. Flexibility is an underpinning principle along with the modularisation of fixed teaching and learning equipment, high utilisation of spaces and dynamic pedagogical approaches. The revitalised laboratories and workshop facilities are used primarily for the engineering disciplines and increasingly for integrated use across many disciplines in the STEM context. The new approach was built upon a base of an integrated faculty structure from 2005 and realised in 2010 as an associated development with the new Science and Engineering Centre (SEC). Evaluation through student feedback surveys for practical activities, utilisation rate statistics and uptake by academic and technical staff indicate a very positive outcome.


Resulting from this implementation has been increased satisfaction by students, creation of social learning and connecting space and an environment that meets the needs and challenges of active, collaborative and group learning pedagogies. Academic staff are supported, technical operations are efficient and laboratories are effectively utilised.


Future opportunities for continuous improvement are evident in using the student feedback to rectify faults and improve equipment, environment and process. The model is easily articulated and visible to other interested parties to contribute to sector wide development of learning spaces.

Impact and interest:

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

Full-text downloads:

35 since deposited on 04 Jan 2016
35 in the past twelve months

Full-text downloads displays the total number of times this work’s files (e.g., a PDF) have been downloaded from QUT ePrints as well as the number of downloads in the previous 365 days. The count includes downloads for all files if a work has more than one.

ID Code: 91513
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: engineering laboratory, hands-on learning, student feedback, HERN
ISBN: 9780730000419
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > ENGINEERING (090000)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > ENGINEERING (090000) > OTHER ENGINEERING (099900) > Engineering not elsewhere classified (099999)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Earth, Environmental & Biological Sciences
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Division of International and Development
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2015 Australasian Association for Engineering Education
Copyright Statement: These proceedings are copyright. Apart from fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any process without the written permission of AAEE. Responsibility for the contents of the articles rests upon the authors and not the publisher. Data presented and conclusions drawn by the authors are for information only and not for use without independent substantiating investigations on the part of the potential user.
Deposited On: 04 Jan 2016 01:47
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2016 08:32

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page