Our series on college buildings continues with a look at new classroom designs, flexible space, collaboration areas, and the evolving role of the university library.

Atrium of the PORTAL at UNC Charlotte.
Atrium of the PORTAL at UNC Charlotte.
May 07, 2012

In February, we opened our 2012 series on design and construction trends in university buildings with a report on “fusion facilities”. We continue the discussion with four more trends that are shaping collegiate projects:

  1. New concepts of classroom design
  2. Increasing use of flexible space concepts
  3. More common areas for collaboration
  4. Repurposing of library space

Behind these trends are several dramatic forces that are cutting right to the heart of the university’s mission:

  • The growing use of project-based teaching
  • The pressure to hold costs down as rising tuition and fees outpace inflation
  • A movement to promote cross-disciplinary collaboration
  • New technologies that are changing pedagogy and how students and faculty interact

1. NEW TAKE ON THE COLLEGE CLASSROOM

Current pedagogical methods at the college level emphasize problem-based learning and collaboration among students over the traditional lecture format. “Experiential learning is at the forefront of just about every discipline,” says Jeff Ziebarth, AIA, LEED AP, a principal in the Minneapolis office of Perkins+Will. “Students are becoming the instructors, and instructors are becoming facilitators.” Working on group projects is believed to promote better retention of knowledge than the traditional lecture model, researchers are finding. So, classrooms must change to meet these new demands.

The Technology Enabled Active Learning (TEAL) classroom in MIT’s Stata Center for Computer, Information and Intelligence Sciences contains 13 round tables, with seating for nine students per table, and three laptop computers per table to accommodate teams of three students. Instructors sit at a workstation in the center of the room. A typical class includes hands-on experimentation supported by interactive digital media.

New and renovated classrooms at many institutions include easily movable furniture and media-rich presentation technology. Missing from this picture: a front-of-the-room podium, says Brad Lukanic, AIA, LEED AP, a principal with Cannon Design, New York. “Every surface of the room has media on it,” he says. “There could be projectors on all four walls.” Packed with electronics, these rooms may require an upgraded electrical system on rehabs of older buildings.

Students can project their work onto a single screen for their own group or onto multiple screens for the whole class to view. “This design takes more square footage than the traditional classroom,” 25-40 sf/person for multimedia, vs. 17-18 sf/person for traditional, Lukanic notes. That makes it more critical for administrators to maximize the utilization rates of updated classrooms. In many cases, multiple departments must share these spaces, which goes against the grain of many institutions that are accustomed to having dedicated buildings for each discipline.

         
 

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