Malaysia’s Frugal Education Lab

Last year, I was fortunate enough to travel to Borneo (twice !!) to work with academics and students teaching and researching creative problem solving through Play. This was for the NEWTON-UNGKU OMAR (NUOF) funded Creative Culture project. A project designed to…

“explore, exploit, and experiment the impact of arts, design, and culture in enhancing creative thinking and development in education (primary and secondary levels) through game design and computational thinking as an approach and instrument for fostering creative problem solving and transcultural practices in Malaysia.”

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The Malaysian half of the team set out to create the ‘myCapsule Lab’. An innovative learning space inspired by our Disruptive Media Learning Lab here at Coventry University. Successfully building a similar space at the University of Malaysia, Sarawak (UNIMAS) with a style and flavour unique to Malaysia.

Taking cues from the DMLL, the team built tiered seating like our Grass lecture space, rolling partitions (with whiteboards on one side and blackboards on the other), modular furniture, portable projectors, and a whole host of other exciting features that have transformed the space into a truly engaging learning environment. One that’s capable of supporting an almost endless variety of dynamic teaching practice.

The real power of the space, aside from the engaging learning it facilitates, is the low cost of production, maintenance, and adaptability. The cost of developing a contemporary learning space such as this can be a very expensive endeavour. To achieve similar results on a fraction of the budget means you have to think smart. You have to embrace frugal methods, bootstrap style, and that’s exactly what the team at UNIMAS did.

The bootstrap methods used not only helped to deliver an amazing space, but they enable the same space to be augmented as and when the team feel like making a change. The DIY aesthetic is a flexible and affordable one, freeing up those who inhabit it to suggest new features and updates without worrying too much about the bottom line. This encourages creativity, not just from the students, but also from the academics that leverage the space.

What’s more, the space will continue to improve with age, due to its evolving design, unlike many expensive, large scale innovative spaces that are at their very best on launch day, but diminish over time due to expensive upkeep and renovation costs.

I’ve already been impressed by the use of the space so far, thanks to Fitri Mohamad‘s Twitter feed (thanks Fitri 😉 ) and I look forward to seeing the myCapsule Lab evolve over time. Suffice to say, the lab’s launch was a resounding success, and a shining example of Frugal Education practice in action!