Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Limitless Learning: Creating Adaptable Environments to Support a Changing Campus: By Delivering Adaptability in Space, Technology, and Furnishings, Old-World Buildings and Traditions Can Successfully Survive amid a Continual Influx of New

Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Limitless Learning: Creating Adaptable Environments to Support a Changing Campus: By Delivering Adaptability in Space, Technology, and Furnishings, Old-World Buildings and Traditions Can Successfully Survive amid a Continual Influx of New

Article excerpt

SOME THINGS NEVER SEEM TO CHANGE on the college campus--at least on the outside. Except for the ever-present smart phone, today's university looks remarkably similar to that of a generation ago or even longer.

But a closer look finds that a transformation is well underway. A peek into the buildings reveals a very different picture from that of a decade or two ago. What is so different? And more specifically, how does this affect the planning function?

CONTRASTS, COLLISIONS, AND CLASHES ON CAMPUS

To enter higher education today is to walk into a world of collisions. Contrasting cultures converge both in the classroom and across campus. Learning and teaching styles can be worlds apart. Multitasking students who grew up in a digital world and have an inherent ability to share and collaborate contrast strongly with tenured professors on campuses where the time-honored approach of lectures and individual assignments prevails and technology is limited to PowerPoint slides. At the same time, some of the most traditional institutions, while still teaching many classes in a conventional lecture hall format, have embraced online learning with gusto, expanding their reach internationally and establishing new profit centers.

Generational clashes also arise among faculty members. Professors who are Baby Boomers or older often have a very different mindset about formality (scheduled office hours) and space requirements (private offices preferred) than younger faculty who are as "portable" as their mobile devices and as informal as their students.

Perhaps the cultural collisions are most evident in the physical structures on those campuses where stately Georgian or Beaux Arts buildings sit alongside newly constructed multipurpose facilities designed and built for 21st-century living and learning. In these new facilities, soaring ceilings and extensive glass create an airy atmosphere in which learning studios have replaced traditional classrooms and wide open spaces are quickly and easily reconfigured to create hubs for learning, quiet study, meeting, socializing, or snacking.

Ironically, on the same campuses where state-of-the-art research takes place, a slow-to-change culture often prevails. Yet somehow amidst these deep contrasts, coalescence frequently emerges to reshape higher education.

This article addresses three key areas relevant to the changing campus landscape. First, it takes a closer look at the goals of higher education today, the forces behind them, and how they ultimately play out on campus. Second, it identifies a singular objective emerging to shape higher education.

Finally, it looks at how design and planning can address the challenges of today's trends and the future needs of a changing population and landscape.

FACTORS DRIVING HIGHER EDUCATION

While the world of higher education is affected by a broad range of factors, three primary trends are the most significant drivers of change on campus:

1. THE NEED TO SERVE AN INCREASINGLY DIVERSE POPULATION

By and large, college campuses are populated with traditional students: 18-22 year-olds with a recently acquired high school diploma attending classes full time at a four-year institution. Yet beyond these conventional collegians is an increasingly diversified student body. The average age of today's student is 29. The number of commuting students, transfer students, part-time learners, returning students, minority students, enrichment learners, and foreign scholars continues to grow.

Many campuses are welcoming returning students, including laid-off workers and parents "on-ramping" back into the workforce by retooling their job skills or learning new ones. More than a quarter of all adults participated in a work-related educational course in 2005, and the number of adults on campus is double what it was a generation or two ago.

2. THE OVERRIDING INFLUENCE AND FAR-REACHING IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY

Whether digital, mobile, or virtual, technology has profoundly affected how students learn and engage. …

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