The world of education and the delivery of education is significantly different for students today than just a generation or two ago. The knowledge needed to prosper in the 21st century requires a new set of skills to communicate, socialize, and gather information that necessitates a change in the way schools provide an education. This includes the learning spaces. According to an article in American School and University, “Trending Toward the Future”, the physical environment plays a vital role in accommodating the varied instructional strategies of teachers and learning styles of students.
Ten trends are identified that play a key role in propelling successful college and university designs. The top three trends that I believe really affect the student’s experience and evokes Service Excellence are:
Student-centered design: The rigid desks and chairs lined up in lecture style are no longer the best layouts. Couches, bean bag chairs, and cushions may enable students to pursue their lessons in a more comfortable setting; in addition to, having areas where students can sit as part of a larger group, or smaller areas where students can gather as a subset of a larger group.
Flexibility: Movable walls to reconfigure room space, roll-able tables, chairs, and desks that can be easily rearranged, all enable the instructor to create the best environment for the learning topic.
Security: The first thing most parents are observing on a campus these days to send their son or daughter is the feeling of safety. Starting in the parking lot with natural surveillance opportunity, thoughtful signage across campus, design of cashier/financial aid and other administrative offices for privacy and easy exit accessibility, clean landscaping, are all areas that “speak” to the student and other visitors perhaps before anyone meets school staff.
Everything your students see, hear, smell and touch makes an impact upon their experience. It is important that as you have opportunities to design and redesign your university’s physical setting, that you look through the “lens of your customers” and identify ways to show that your institution is leading the way in ensuring student success in the learning environment.