Image of Cameron Campbell, CCS Team Lead

A new space in the heart of Grays, SA26, brings a fresh approach to blended learning

By Jenny Frost - 16 September 2021

As we emerge from the pandemic, students are returning to campus to experience a more blended form of learning. The Contextual and Critical Studies Team at Gray's School of Art has created a new, modern teaching space, SA26. CCS Team Lead Cameron Campbell tells us more about the new space and how it can support a student's learning journey.

"SA26 has been carefully re-designed to provide an updated multifunctional space that supports students both on campus and at home in the area of critical and contextual studies. Our aspiration has been to create a new kind of educational environment that is appropriate for the contemporary and future needs of students.  Pedagogical techniques have to keep up to date with current expectations and behaviours. SA26 is a positive opportunity for CCS to adapt as digital communication evolves.  

It will undoubtedly take time and practice to discover how to achieve most suitable balance between online and in-person.  However, we will always be driven by the aim of providing the most consistent and best quality learning experiences for students. The room has been transformed with this ambition in mind. It is a flexible workspace that accommodates both digital and in-person learning opportunities.

SA26 contains state-of-the-art technology to facilitate a wide range of academic activities. Online inductions and lectures are already scheduled in. We are looking at generating podcasts, hosting virtual guest speakers, streaming pre-recorded material. The year-round programme will include shared-screen activities such as seminars and conferences. Groups can attend in the studio to allow for two-way flow of communication between individuals in different places and settings.

One way of looking at the room is that it is a kind of incubator. Its basic role is to promote and animate creative connections. In this way, students will be guided and supported through all stages and areas of the CCS curriculum. Various academic materials and texts will be held here for consultation.

A special role for the room is to display carefully selected items from the RGU Heritage Collection. The art and design displays in SA26 will be changed on a regular basis so that visitors can see a changing selection taken from the impressive in-house archive of artistic treasures.  An image of the original Gray's building from 1966 is currently on show to offer an intriguing visual snapshot from the school's memory bank. A natural next step is to extend the activities out into the surrounding corridor to create a wider awareness of the lively activities centred on SA26. Using the adjacent walls for information and exhibits is a way of both reaching out and inviting in.  This will effectively extend participation of the Gray's community.  

20th-Sept-Printblock- Gray's School of Art 1966 Print Block, RGU Art and Heritage Collection
We have also been able to house a dedicated tribute to John Welsh who was for many years a highly respected student, colleague and friend of ours at Gray's. The room houses a special collection of books from John's personal library. This is a fitting and positive way for us to remember John.

The project has resulted from genuine partnership working. I am deeply grateful for the shared professional commitment given by the people in the Estates Department, Janitorial Team, Heritage Collection, Admin Team and Gray's teaching staff. Key strategic decisions were made to enable and resource this innovation. The CCS Team very much appreciates the considerable support given for this fairly experimental initiative."

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