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The Innovation Lab is best described as the campus makerspace. The Innovation Lab is a space and collection of resources within the Library that can be used to engage in “making”; this can be either physical production through such processes as 3D printing and laser etching or digital production of 360 images, virtual reality, 3D scans, audio/video recording, and so forth.
As part of the renovation of the E. Y. Berry Library-Learning Center, the Innovation Lab has been expanded. The initial iteration of the space was limited—around 120 square feet. The renovated makerspace will be located in the lower level, boast a primary workspace of 675 square feet, and have two attached rooms equipped for audio and video production.
Aaron Bauerly manages the Innovation Lab and is the best point of contact regarding the space.
The mission of the Black Hills State University Library is to be an information gateway for academic research and scholarship. Librarians provide tools, support and an intellectually open environment conducive to educational excellence, and lifelong learning for the global BHSU community.
The Innovation Lab will support this mission in a unique way. The Library’s vision for the Innovation Lab is to act as a point of convergence between academic disciplines, community, technologies, and ideas. This makerspace will foster innovation by providing programming and resources in a flexible, collaborative environment that facilitates the creation of knowledge and development of understanding through making.
In practice, the Innovation Lab will achieve this vision through several avenues.
A defining characteristic and guiding philosophy of the Innovation Lab is constructivist and experiential pedagogy. Whether through creation of content for learning outside of the space or use of equipment and software within the Innovation Lab, our goal is to support and achieve learning outcomes through exploration, application, and creation. Moreover, we believe that accessibility is crucial to successfully engaging students; we will strive to remove as many obstacles as possible that may dissuade or impede students’ use of the Innovation Lab. Due to the unstructured, open-ended nature of this approach, we acknowledge the need for the presence of trained and knowledgeable staff to assist students and faculty alike in the use of these resources.
We consider such staffing a priority, because the Innovation Lab will operate as an open resource—like any other in the Library—in support of this pedagogy. Use and reservations of resources will take place primarily on a “first come, first serve” basis for individual pieces of equipment or sections of the room. This “always open” approach allows for flexibility in individuals’ use of equipment for time-intensive tasks while maintaining availability of other equipment. Moreover, this open environment is conducive to the unstructured, experiential learning found in other non-classroom environments, such as field experience, internships, and community projects.
Faculty are welcome and encouraged to bring groups or entire class sections to the Innovation Lab. However, the Innovation Lab will not be available for reservation in the same fashion as traditional classrooms. Instead, preference and priority reservations for specific equipment or the audio and video production rooms will be first given to faculty who coordinate with the Library to incorporate introduction and use of these resources within their curriculum before the beginning of each Academic year and semester to ensure availability and timely access. One up-front exception to this guideline is that reservation of the entire space may be available for project-based curriculum in which concurrent access to all resources within the Innovation Lab is necessary. (E.g., students are expected to explore all the available equipment as part of initial project planning and select the most appropriate solution.)
As part of its open nature, the Innovation Lab will be available for faculty to use personally. For example, the resources can be used to develop and produce customized materials for use in instruction, such as 3D printing models or tools, creating virtual content, or recording audio or video to supplement lessons.
Similarly, the space will be open and available to students for use in their research, academic, and personal pursuits regardless of coursework requirements. Students will be provided with mentorship and guidance from their peers as they learn to use the equipment.
Whenever possible, the library will also work to coordinate programming with community entities and campus groups to bring hands-on learning events to the space. Like our other resources, such as books and databases, the space and some of the equipment will be available to community members to use in their own research and projects.
The greatest impact of the Innovation Lab on student learning outcomes can be realized through collaboration between the Library and faculty during lesson planning. Learning through projects within makerspaces is inherently constructivist and can be particularly powerful in the development of soft skills. To optimize our students’ opportunities for such development, the space and technology of the Innovation Lab can be intentionally incorporated into coursework by leveraging the Maker Competencies framework from the American Library Association (ALA).
This framework was developed by the Maker Literacies program—a collaborative research project undertaken by academic libraries across the nation—and outlines soft skills achieved through the integration of makerspaces into curriculum. A librarian will work with interested faculty to identify student learning outcomes from the Maker Competencies framework and develop coursework that make use of resources within the Innovation Lab to facilitate students’ achievement of these outcomes. When the Innovation Lab is used in this way, the library will be able to perform non-graded assessments of participating students to inform future curriculum, program development, and pedagogy.
More information about the Maker Literacies program and sample lesson plans can be found at the program’s website: https://library.uta.edu/makerliteracies.