Blended Learning, Domestic, Opinion, Personalized Learning, Required, Universities & Colleges - Written by on Sunday, November 11, 2012 6:00 - 0 Comments

Heard: Designing College Campuses 3.0 With Human Beings In Mind… Less WIFI?

10070043 moodboard via Compfight

Architect Maddy Burke-Vigeland writes in FastCompany about her firm’s research and new ideas in campus designs. She proposes some interesting thoughts (below)… Here’s our critique:

The cons: These ideas seem to largely serve the elitist and higher-priced model of education… catering to what students want at expensive, private schools. That’s the weakness in her argument. Should university design cater to the whims of student generations? What about when those aesthetic whims of students in the 1970s change in the 1980s or 1990s. That means schools are constantly tearing down or refurbishing old buildings and building new ones. That’s costly. It’s brick and mortar centric.

The notion that colleges should invest more in buildings and less in technology is a questionable one…. and one that is self-serving to architectural firms. Data shows that more and more students are taking classes online or in blended learning models.

It’s charming that students value paper and pencil tools higher than connectivity. But we think while some students say they want less connectivity, they would raise an incredible ruckus if they didn’t have Wifi on a campus…. or computers and smart phones. Yes. Perhaps there are times and places to turn off computers and to have WIFI-free zones on campus as an experiment (And yes. Perhaps the library is a good place to start). But tread lightly. Students must have the self-discipline to use pen and paper and be inspired. They should be the ones to close their Facebook page and write a term paper rather than relying on a school to tell them to do so.

The Pros: Burke-Vigeland makes a strong point that classrooms shouldn’t just sit dark when class isn’t in session. More classrooms should be multi-purpose rooms where students can collaborate when not sitting in a lecture. The learning experience should be individualized. We’ve seen this trend already happening on many campuses. If there are affordable ways to re-use buildings at community colleges and other institutions, we are all for it. We think there is wisdom in her call for collaborative spaces where students can study and work together. The time to make such changes is when a school is updating existing buildings anyway.

The fine line is knowing how to have student-centric design in education without being dated and without being extravagant in one’s spending on buildings and architects. School is still school. Yes. It should be inspiring. Yes. It should be collaborative. But it’s not the Four Seasons…

Burke-Vigeland writes:

Gensler, the global design firm where I practice, recently spent a semester surveying more than 250 undergrad and graduate students from around the country in an effort to better understand exactly how and where they spend their study time on campus, and whether those physical spaces (classrooms, labs, libraries, in-between spaces) effectively support their needs….

Imagine a campus populated with spaces that create a culture of learning 24/7. Classroom buildings are alive with students all day, all night. Along with making classrooms/class time more collaborative, Campus 3.0 extends that same kind of energy to the surrounding spaces. Gone are the classroom buildings that go dark when the last bell rings for the day. Gone are the empty classrooms inhabited by students who squat here as a last resort and “hack” the kind of study/collaborative space they need.

Traditionally, classroom buildings were designed with double-loaded corridors that efficiently carve classroom after classroom into both sides of a corridor. Those corridors/buildings now need to be opened up. A mix of classrooms, open team-based spaces, and social spaces needs to be interwoven to give students the dynamic learning environments they told us are missing from their campus experience.

Campus 3.0 is sensitive. It remembers the human side of connectedness. And this ties to probably the most surprising finding in our survey: the fact that students ranked pen and paper as the study tools they used most often on campus, followed closely by and in tandem with the laptop and Internet.

As someone who has worked around student populations for more than two decades, I interpret this constant of “pen and paper” as something physical and tangible and likely to never go away. The act of writing/sketching/concepting connects students in a very personal way to their notes, their research, and by extension, to the whole process of becoming independent adult thinkers in this fast moving world. Today’s students still want to feel and own that connection. And they want to feel inspired by the classrooms where those connections to big thinking are forged. The students we surveyed acknowledged the functionality of their classrooms and in particular, the technological prowess shown within. But fewer than one-third of them said their classrooms inspired them.

Via FastCoExist


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