The Learning Room

Learning Room design is crucial to ensuring good adult learning and here I explore this and how the room should be designed for use with business simulations.











Site Map

Contact Us

This page covers:

Inappropriate Room Layouts

Adult business people bring considerable experience and knowledge to a course and the layout of the room should facilitate and encourage discussion and interaction between the learners. Yet there are layouts that are designed to close down discussion and ensure the professor maintains his or her position (at the top of the food chain). Specifically these are classroom and theatre style where the learners are seated in serried rows (often on immovable chairs) - a seating arrangement where focus is on the Instructor's Power Point presentation and where discussion among the learners is discouraged.

I remember an academic conference where I was first speaker. I arrived early and rearranged the room into a U-shape - an arrangement that remained for the rest of the conference and encouraged interaction during the presentations. However, one academic was really upset that people were asking questions during his presentation rather than holding them reverentially to the end!

Recently, while sitting in on a course, I experienced an interesting way of dealing with late arrivals - insufficient chairs so the late arrivers had to stand or sit on the floor!

Group Room Layout

At the start of the business simulation (when the group is briefed), at the end of the simulation (when the results are reviewed and the simulation debriefed) and for other learning activities, I prefer a V or U shaped layout. Why?

This layout allows the learners to turn to each other and discuss issues (a situation as described later is helped if the chairs can swivel). Also, this layout allows me to walk into the U or the V to draw out comments from individuals. It also removes the barrier between the tutor and the learners and encourages them to learn from each other. Although the diagram does not show tables, you may wish to place these in front of the learners to ease note taking..

Breakout Rooms

For most of the business simulation the learners work in small teams and it helps that this work is done in separate breakout rooms where they can plan and act. Besides a table and chairs for the learners there should be one or two extra chairs for the tutor and one or two flip charts. With my business simulations, teams decide a team name and it is nice to label the door to the breakout room (team board room) with this name. Also, if running the course in a hotel where the breakout rooms are converted bedrooms be aware that the lighting may be in adequate. Finally, it is important to try to cluster the breakout rooms together. I remember well running a business simulation more than thirty years ago where the breakout rooms were spread across a hotel's buildings. As the business simulation extended into the evening, moving between the rooms along unlit paths was an interesting experience. Besides the horizontal spread of rooms, how they are spread vertically can be an issue - unless you want to be kept fit running up and down stairs.

Direct Use Business Simulations

Direct Use simulations are unlike Tutor Mediated simulations because the tutor is not in the decision-entry loop and, commonly, they have shorter durations. This means that as an alternate to having separate breakout rooms, I like spreading the teams around the sides of a large room. This allows me to view all teams and identify which require coaching or challenging. Also I or they can share information on charts.

Conference Layout

Here there are two issues. First, numbers are large - commonly ranging from fifty to several hundred. Second, the purpose is usually more to do with competitive fun rather than learning. This means that it may be logistically difficult (or impossible) to give each team its own breakout room. For this I find the Banquet or Cabaret Style the best. As it is easy to collect decisions and deliver results. Also the buzz in the room adds to the competitive spirit! Finally, it is useful to label each table with the team name/number - menu holders or shell cards are good for this.

Even for normal sized courses of up to two dozen learners, this layout is an alternative to the V or U layout.

Business Simulation Type, Manner of Use and Room Layout

Although I described the room layout for Direct Use simulations earlier this section revisits this and discusses Tutor Mediated simulations in the context of their normal (training course) use and business conference use.


Simulation Type

Tutor Mediated Direct Use
Group Size Course (Small)

Tutorís computer in main learning room with a breakout room for each team.

Teams and computers spread around edge of main learning room.

Conference (Large)

Tutorís computer in learning room with teams on tables around a Cabaret style room.

Teams and computers on tables around a Cabaret style room.

Other Things - chairs, power points and walls

The best training centres provide comfortable office type chairs for the learners. There are two reasons for this. First, learners may be sitting for a long time and it is uncomfortable if the chair is not well padded. Second, office chairs swivel and this allows learners to turn and interact with other learners. Unfortunately, some training centres and most hotels seem to think that non-swiveling, dining or stackable chairs are acceptable. Whenever I see such chairs, it tells me that the training is not a core offering and there may be multiple problems. (Like, one I experienced - the hotel mending the flat roof above the training room with pneumatic drills!) And, arguably sitting in tiered rows in a university's lecture theatre tells me learning is not a concern!

Power points are another potential problem area. Commonly there are not enough or they are in the wrong place. So, check for these beforehand and be prepared to bring several extension cords with you. (Again an example, when running a course in London, England, I found the power points used Austrailian sockets - no I do not know why!)

Walls can also be a problem. I encourage learners to use Flip Charts to document and share ideas and then stick these on the wall. Commonly venues (Hotels) where training is not a core offering may have wall paper and seem to not like you sticking flip chart sheets to this. (I remember well an online discussion on how you get round this - the ultimate solution was to put tables on their sides (legs towards the wall) and attach the sheets of paper to these - my solution would be to find another venue. Ideally, the walls should be covered by magnetic whiteboards that can be written on or learners can attach flip-chart sheets using magnets.

Business Simulation Control Area

If you are running a Tutor Mediated simulation, you will need a work area (Simulation Control Area). I suggest that this is in a corner of the main (group) room (near a power point) and consists of two tables Ė a work table and a table for the computer and the printer.

The work table can be used to store past printouts and notes. The computer table provides space for the microcomputer, printer and room for teams to deliver their decisions. Also, you may need a lamp to ensure adequate light and a waste paper basket for discarded paper (although if this is not supplied I have found dropping discards on the floor will train hotel staff to provide a waste basket!)

As the computer faces into the work area and learners only have access to the area outside the work area, decision processing is secure and learners cannot accidentally see other teamsí decisions and results. The Flip Chart adds to security and allows the tutor to provide information to the teams. Finally, it may be useful to have filing trays to store decisions and results.

This information is available as a downloadable white paper.

© 2010 Jeremy J. S. B. Hall

Most recent update: 01/01/15
Hall Marketing, Studio 11, Colman's Wharf, 45 Morris Road, London E14 6PA, ENGLAND
Phone +44 (0)20 7537 2982 E-mail