We are evaluating our class in terms of how well it functioned as a third place. The Project for Public Spaces says that a third place may be evaluated in terms of its access and linkages. In other words, a good public space is easy to get to and, in turn, links to other places well. We can evaluate our class, then, on how accessible it was and how well it linked us to other resources. How so?
First, our class, both real and virtual, should have been within continuous proximity to our other spaces. If you must go too far out of your way to reach a third place, then you won't likely go, so a fine third place is accessible from your first (home) and second (work) places, and it flows into other interesting and inviting places.
In addition to being accessible, a good class space must be readable. I take this to mean that the space must be interpretable; it must be intuitively obvious to the engaged visitor. When a student enters a third space, then its arrangements and structures and guideposts should make sense and should be easy to follow. A student should understand quickly how to get in and get out of a good class space and what to do while there.
Finally, a fine class space should be convenient. Traffic should flow easily into and out of the space, with no traffic jams.
In my experience, classrooms—especially the real classrooms—have been too isolated from everything else. They are bland, little boxes that do not connect well to whatever the class is actually about. If not obligated by money or grades to show up, then most of us would not willingly congregate in a classroom. They don't really connect to anything else in our lives, and I think that is sad. So, I'm wondering if a virtual classroom space or spaces could be that fine third place that invites us in, that connects us to other interesting places, and that entices us to linger awhile out of sheer interest and enjoyment. Why can't a classroom be that kind of place? What does it take to make a classroom a third place such as that?
So a final set of questions about how our real and virtual class functioned as a third place:
- Was our real class space convenient to you, and did it link well to and from your other spaces? How could it have been better?
- Were our virtual class spaces convenient to you, and did they link well to and from your other real and online spaces? How could access to these virtual class spaces have been improved for you?
- Were the virtual class spaces readable, easily interpretable, intuitively obvious to you? Were you usually confident about what to do when you got there? How could they have been made more readable?
- What traffic jams undermined our virtual class spaces, and what could we have done to help traffic and conversation flow into and out of our online spaces better?