Research Design

This empirical and qualitative study was carried out in autumn 2009 and was divided into two phases: The first phase of the project involved mapping the campus of Oslo University College and doing participant observation inside and outside the campus. The following tasks and questions were crucial to our research:

  • Based on our own experiences from our first meeting at the campus of Oslo University College, we asked ourselves the following questions: Is it difficult to orient oneself on campus? Is the main entrance easy to find? Where is the Administration Department? Are the signs easy to read and interpret?
  • How do students and employees perceive the campus? One exercise we used in this phase was to instruct passers-by to do the following: Describe the campus in five words. On this basis, we could categorize different ways of conceptualizing the campus. We asked a total of 27 people to describe the campus.
  • Are visual differences detectable between groups of people in terms of their use of space?
  • The use of key cards (nøkkelkort) is paramount and has to do with accessibility. We asked the following questions: What places are accessible and to whom? What are the pros and cons associated with the use of key cards? In what ways do key card systems influence students’ and employees’ notions of accessibility, security, and well-being?
  • How are public spaces on campus used, experienced, and described from different perspectives—for example, by employees and students?
  • How is accessibility experienced? (In other words, how do students and employees describe their experiences with accessibility on campus?) What kinds of accessibility are important? Is accessibility available to all, or is it restricted to certain groups of people? How is accessibility (or lack of it) created, and how is it maintained? In what ways is accessibility lacking on campus?
  • What conditions apply to using “after class” spaces like the canteen?
  • What experiences do employees and students have with transparent glass walls? Do they influence work and study? Are there any specific formal or informal rules regarding the covering of windows and doors?
  • Is the campus architecture inclusive for students and employees of various backgrounds and needs?
  • What about the prayer rooms? Where are they situated? Who uses them?
  • What kinds of information services exist, who uses them, how are they used, and how are they experienced by students?
  • What are the experiences, challenges, and consequences of IT development (IT technology, use of IT services, and on-line communication) at the college?
  • How do students and employees describe their experience with the on-line services that are available as important ways of communication during their study and work?
  • Are information services at the campus sufficient and accessible?
  • Is there a difference between accessibility to technology and accessibility to people?

On the basis of participant observation and informal communication conducted in the field, we carried out a series of semi-structural interviews with employees and international students. The purposes of these interviews were to find out how people thought about what we had observed during the fieldwork and to receive an indication of the validity of our preliminary conclusions and analysis. We carried out a total of 11 interviews (4 employees and 7 international students). The informants were recruited by email or phone. The interviews were carried out in an office or a meeting room on campus.


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