ChatGPT Designs a University Learning Space Design Evaluation Plan

I asked ChatGPT to describe the state of learning space research, and how to evaluate the design and use of learning spaces in a university context. I’ll provide my prompts and ChatGPT’s responses verbatim:

robot classroom observationRobot classroom observation, by Stable Diffusion


Describe the current state of research into the design and use of learning spaces in universities. Provide examples and references.


There is a growing body of research on the design and use of learning spaces in universities. Some key themes in this research include:

  1. Flexible and active learning spaces: Many researchers have studied the use of flexible and active learning spaces, which are designed to support collaborative, student-centered approaches to teaching and learning. Examples of flexible and active learning spaces include classrooms with moveable furniture, tiered seating, and flexible configurations; maker spaces and design studios; and group study rooms. Research has shown that these types of spaces can support increased student engagement and collaboration, as well as improved student outcomes (e.g., see Clark, A. & Feldon, D. (2005). Five principles for the design of effective classrooms. Educational Psychology Review, 17(4), 423-451).

  2. Technology-rich learning spaces: The use of technology in classrooms and learning spaces is another area of active research. This includes the use of interactive whiteboards, projection systems, and other types of digital displays, as well as the integration of mobile devices and other personal technologies. Research has shown that technology can support increased engagement and collaboration, but that it is important to consider issues such as equity, access, and support when implementing technology in learning spaces (e.g., see Voogt, J., Fisser, P., Pareja Roblin, N., Tondeur, J., & Van Braak, J. (2015). The use of ICT in education: A review of research. Educational Research Review, 13, 17-40).

  3. Sustainable and environmentally-friendly learning spaces: There is also growing interest in the design and use of sustainable and environmentally-friendly learning spaces. This includes the use of natural lighting, energy-efficient systems, and materials with low environmental impact. Research has shown that these types of spaces can support improved student health and well-being, as well as increased engagement and motivation (e.g., see Li, X., Li, Y., Li, Z., & Chen, M. (2018). A review of research on the environmental performance of green schools. Sustainability, 10(6), 1887).

These are just a few examples of the types of research being conducted on the design and use of learning spaces in universities. There are many other areas of research in this field, and new research is being published all the time.


Aside from the “that’s a great question” filler at the beginning, this sounds like a great description, and ChatGPT identified 3 valid areas of research in learning space design and evaluation. The citations appear to be complete, for lack of a better academic term, bullshit. None of the articles appear to have ever existed. Nothing shows up in Google Scholar, nor on the journals’ own websites. So, references are generated without actually referring to anything…

Honestly, this is a pretty big red flag. It looked like ChatGPT had provided references - showing where it got the information from - but it actually just generated a bunch of words that look like citations. There. Is that citationy enough for you? Good. Moving on… But - somone will try to pass this off as genuine, and unless they take the time and effort to try to verify every single citation, it looks real. But there’s nothing there. OK, so let’s just whistle past that particular issue. Can ChatGPT generate something useful, even though we categorically can not trust that it knows what it’s talking about?


Describe how you would collect and apply data to evaluate the use and effectiveness of classrooms and learning spaces at a university.


There are several ways to collect and apply data to evaluate the use and effectiveness of classrooms and learning spaces at a university. Here are a few options:

  1. Conduct surveys: Surveys can be administered to students, faculty, and staff to gather feedback on the use and effectiveness of classrooms and learning spaces. Surveys can be administered online or in person, and may include questions about the physical design of the space, the availability of resources and technology, and overall satisfaction with the space.

  2. Track usage data: Universities can track data on the usage of classrooms and learning spaces through room reservation systems, key card access logs, or other methods. This data can provide insight into how often classrooms are being used, and at what times.

  3. Observe and record: Observations of classrooms and learning spaces can provide valuable insight into how they are being used and how effective they are. Observations can be conducted by university staff or trained researchers, and can include recording notes, photos, or videos of the space.

  4. Analyze performance data: Universities can analyze data on student performance, such as grades or test scores, to determine whether certain classrooms or learning spaces are more effective than others. This data can be compared across different courses, instructors, or academic departments to identify patterns and trends.

To apply this data, universities can use it to identify areas for improvement and make changes to classrooms and learning spaces accordingly. Universities can also use the data to make informed decisions about the allocation of resources and the allocation of classrooms to different courses or programs.


Again, the response looks solid and describes (at a high level) some valid options for gathering data. Can it go a bit deeper to talk about what that might look like?


Elaborate on point number 3 - how would you observe and record classroom activities to evaluate the effectiveness of learning spaces?


There are several ways to observe and record classroom activities in order to evaluate the effectiveness of learning spaces:

  1. Take detailed notes: Observers can take detailed notes on what they see and hear during their observations. This can include information on student and instructor behavior, the use of resources and technology, and the physical layout of the space.

  2. Use a checklist: Observers can use a checklist to record specific features of the classroom, such as the availability of resources, the quality of lighting and acoustics, and the overall organization of the space.

  3. Take photos or videos: Photos or videos can provide a visual record of the classroom and learning activities taking place. These can be particularly useful for capturing details that may be missed in notes or on a checklist.

  4. Conduct interviews: Observers can conduct interviews with students, faculty, or staff to gather more in-depth feedback on the classroom and learning space. These interviews can be structured or unstructured, and may include open-ended questions or prompts to guide the conversation.

It’s important to ensure that observations are conducted in a respectful and unobtrusive manner, and that participants are aware that they are being observed. Informed consent should be obtained from participants before conducting observations or interviews.


Not bad. Sure, it’s formulaic and high-level, but it starts to talk about how you might actually go about observing and recording classroom activities to evaluate the use of space. But, can it give some more information about what “take detailed notes” means?


What guidance would you give for researchers who want to take detailed notes of the use of learning spaces?


Here are a few pieces of guidance for researchers who want to take detailed notes of the use of learning spaces:

  1. Focus on key features: It can be tempting to try to capture every single detail of the classroom and learning activities, but this can be overwhelming and may not be necessary. Instead, focus on key features of the space and activities that are most relevant to your research goals.

  2. Use a consistent format: Using a consistent format for your notes can help you keep track of the information you are collecting and make it easier to analyze later. This could include using headings, bullet points, or other formatting techniques to organize your notes.

  3. Use abbreviations and shorthand: To save time and make it easier to take detailed notes, you may want to use abbreviations or shorthand to represent common words or phrases. Just be sure to create a key or legend so that you can decipher your notes later.

  4. Use multiple methods: Taking notes is just one way to record information about the classroom and learning activities. You may also want to use other methods, such as photos, videos, or audio recordings, to capture different types of information or to supplement your notes.

  5. Review and revise your notes: After you have finished observing, take some time to review and revise your notes. This can help you clarify any unclear points, fill in any gaps, and ensure that your notes are accurate and complete.


ChatGPT really likes ordered lists. And it seems to have gone a bit off track on this response, talking about general strategies for taking notes rather than how to develop an instrument to guide structured note-taking during an observation…

Honestly, I don’t know what to make of it. The initial high level descriptions were pretty decent and would serve as a good starting point for developing a plan. But, the fact that it’s apparently completely unhinged from legitimate scholarship, despite making the attempt to claim valid-looking citations, means I wouldn’t trust a word that ChatGPT generates. Maybe it’s kind of like using Wikipedia - use it to initailly start to understand a concept, but don’t directly use it or cite it in your own work as you move on to more trustworthy original (human-authored?) resources? (and oof, I hope Wikipedia has a ChatGPT filter somehow, to catch all of the impending AI-generated content that will be pumped into it…)

And, yes, I’m aware that I’m spending time and effort to essentially teach a billion-dollar AI “startup” how to improve their language models. But, if we don’t spend time learning about how these things work, we’re going to be at the mercy of bullshit-slinging vendors who try to sell us this as The Only Way To Save Higher Education again.

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Last updated: September 28, 2023