A learning centre facility is important if a housing organisation wishes to support people to develop skills in either a structured or drop-in setting, whether supported by the organisation's own staff or by a partner.
There are several considerations to take into account...
Most organisations have limited space, and a frequent consideration is the flexibility of space. Another consideration is the responsibilities of managing Internet access, software installation, maintenance etc..
laptops and/or tablets and the use of general space
One approach is to use laptops and WiFi connectivity to use a general space as a part time learning centre.
- Keeps the space available for other purposes;
- Makes the equipment available for other spaces; and
- Enables storage of equipment in secure areas in main buildings
- Requires setup of equipment for every use, so requires additional staffing time;
- Requires consideration of charging of batteries or dealing with trailing wires;
- Smaller screens and keyboards pose accessibility issues (although accessibility support on iPads is also good); and
- Prevents casual drop-in other than at specified times
fixed desktop installations
An alternative approach is to provide fixed desktop installations.
- Space is always available without additional setup time;
- Enables deployment of full-sized keyboards and large screens as standard (particularly important for people with vision or dexterity difficulties);
- Supports casual drop-in more easily;
- more easily appropriate to classes, especially as part or larger network with standardised setup (e.g. John Wheatley Learning Network)
- Loss of space for other purposes
independently managed centres
An independently managed centre with its own connectivity infrastructure can provide greater local control, as well as lose some benefits from economies of scale
- Control of setup and modifications to software deployment enabling agility of response to changing opportunities
- Lack of economies of scale can mean higher costs;
- Less likely to gain from wider partnerships supporting digital and other inclusion;
- Responsibility for taking reasonable steps to manage Internet access remains with the housing organisation;
- Responsibility for setup and maintenance remains with housing organisation
centres which are part of larger networks
Being part of a wider network provides the opportunity to standardise setup, supporting wider partnerships and sharing of responsibilities, but can lead to some loss of control. Examples of larger networks are public library networks and the John Wheatley Learning Network.
- Standardised setups supporting sharing of practice;
- An external organisation can take responsibility for URL filtering and other security
- Economies of scale can apply to software costs
- Some loss of agility for setup changes