Reimagining the Classroom as Part of Your Innovation Strategy?

  • 3 Min Read

Some 21st-Century Design Trends to Consider

According to industry experts, the redesign of learning spaces is a top digital transformation trend impacting postsecondary learning institutions. From VR and AR technologies to makerspaces and collaborative tables to 3D hologram displays, writable walls and work surfaces, there is a myriad of choices and technologies now available to postsecondary institutions seeking to innovatively redesign the way learning happens on campus.

A 2012 landmark study found that good classroom design alters academic performance by up to 25% over a school year. It also found that five core elements were responsible for 73% of the variation in student performance:

  • Color
    • On floors, walls and furniture, for visual stimulation (as color activates various regions of the brain).
  • Choice
    • Quality furniture, including interesting and ergonomic tables and chairs.
  • Complexity
    • Novel surroundings and attention-grabbing décor balanced with a sense orderliness.
  • Flexibility
    • The ability to accommodate students without crowding and to arrange chairs and work surfaces for a variety of activities and teaching approaches.
  • Light
    • Quality and quantity of natural light, and the ability to control the level of lighting.

But when it comes to redesigning classrooms (or any learning environment) for active learning, there’s no one-size-fits-all model. It’s about flexibility and accommodating multiple teaching and learning styles.

There are, however, a few core building blocks to consider in your redesign effort.

  • Seating
    • Flexible and mobile seating is essential for active learning, ensuring that students have the capability to reconfigure, switch tasks and remain engaged. Look for seating that offers glide and caster balls, optional tablet arms, nesting capability, and under-seat storage.
  • Multi-purpose desking and tables
    • Surfaces designed for interaction and to facilitate a broad set of activities are essential. Consider a mix of shapes, sizes, heights and details. Look for tables and desks that incorporate privacy panels, seamless power and storage options.
  • Mobile devices and accessories
    • From mobile glass boards to media walls and makerboards, adaptable technology supports a variety of learning styles and boosts student engagement.[1]

“As teaching delivery models have evolved, so have the spaces needed for learning. A traditional lecture hall, for example, may sit empty while professors hold court in smaller classrooms that facilitate collaborative and interactive learning,” according to JLL higher education practice leaders David Houck and Kevin Wayer. “No wonder many public and private universities are using space utilization studies. Why build new facilities when you could use existing space more effectively?” However, the experts at JLL caution that it’s not just about the space — it’s also about people with the vision to reimagine the campus of the future. Again, according to Houck and Wayer, “The tech-enabled campus of the future can only become a reality if universities have skilled people to manage smart-building technologies and analyze the treasure trove of data coming from sensors and other connected devices.”[2]

Three basics of good classroom design

  • Naturalness
    • Responsible for 50% of the impact on learning, naturalness is about the instructor and students’ need for physical comfort. Elements include light, sound, temperature, air quality and “links to nature.”
  • Stimulation
    • The vibrancy of a classroom is responsible for 25% of the differences in learning.
  • Individuality
    • How well the classroom meets the needs of students is responsible for 25% of learning differences. [3]

[1] Active Learning Spaces | Design for Educational Enrichment
[2] 5 trends poised to shake up higher education in 2018
[3] 7 Tips for Redesigning Your Learning Space

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