2004 NITLE-PKAL New Learning Spaces Workshop

Best Ideas

People

  • Users of the facilities being built or renovated must be kept involved throughout the process. The tendency is for users to be kicked out once the architect or contractor takes over.
  • It is imperative to have faculty buy-in during facility design.
  • Identify a Project Shepherd who can be seen as “agenda-less”.

Classrooms

  • Semi-circular tables with workstations invite more collaboration – spaces shape learning.
  • Recognize that assigning classes to spaces for a semester precludes possibilities to easily change teaching methodologies.
  • Provide classroom flexibility through a variety of classroom designs and configurations rather than trying to make each room as flexible as possible.
  • Make faculty self-conscious about teaching and classroom teaching needs. Discuss how the teaching space influences teaching styles.
  • Classroom as flexible studio with faculty control of layout.
  • We’ve added larger classrooms because we assumed that it wouldn’t hurt to have a small number of students in a room that was bigger – that was wrong for many reasons.

Furniture

  • Don’t ignore light, sound, and furniture when designing learning spaces. Comfortable chairs are important too.
  • Furniture revisited: natural vs. artificial shapes.

Systems

  • The focus should be on provision of information/communication (not equipment). Think small, bare bones, basic systems that get built up over time.

Technologies

  • Best designs to facilitate use of technology must be flexible enough to adapt to inevitable change in the technology itself.
  • Encourage world language faculty to look at new technology interfaces – use study abroad sites.
  • Publicize technology by showcasing student projects – using looping videotapes of the students in a public area.
  • Strategic model for media-equipping ALL classrooms: common configuration of basic must-have equipment at lowest price and go from there.
  • Integration of technology and traditional library is possible and necessary.
  • Visualization lab offers significant potential for non-science departments.
  • Classroom technology upgrades are best approached as a campus strategy, not isolated projects. Everyone in our fields should be required to visit the Vassar library and its facilities.
  • Use outdoor emergency call boxes as wireless access points for outdoor areas.
  • Cyber architecture for all the various campus software: a management system to “house” everything in a system that flows.
  • Computer viruses: an issue on student computers.
  • Give a wireless tablet to every professor who agrees to turn in his/her desktop computer.
  • In the future, all classrooms will be “smart”, just like all classrooms have lighting, power, etc.
  • Make sure Learning/Information Commons is not just a glorified lab.
  • Pedagogy, facilities, and technology are interrelated.
  • Make technology decisions at the “last responsible moment”. Simple ideas make classrooms more usable; e.g. mount a large screen so the instructor can see his/her presentation while roaming.
  • Make sure your technology is stable and reliable, and build a digital sandbox to allow exploration and creation.
  • Hard-wired blog infrastructure is the best value and will be needed in the near future.
  • Having a teleprompter-like monitor in front of the instructor increases personal contact with students.
  • Voting systems increase active learning in classes.
  • Every room needs the same control system even if technology differs between rooms.
  • Technology should be integrated, not added-on.
  • Hierarchy of technology in the classroom: one or two “Highest/Emerging Technology”; some “Medium/State of the Art”; all “Lowest/State of the Industry”
  • A classroom on the cutting edge is not appropriate for every situation; more recent technology = higher risk, higher cost.
  • Plasma & LCD screens work in rooms with lots of ambient light.
  • It is more important that the design allow for easy changing of the technology during the life of the building than that the technology is right on day one.
  • Plan for infrastructure and core data systems; save edge technology planning for later.

Planning

  • How do you state the problem properly? Without this as a base/starting point for planning, no results can come out properly.
  • Develop a “working model” of project ideas and possibilities and try it out before doing anything permanent.
  • Strategic planning in technology must be about vision of capabilities/services and not technology implementation.
  • Vassar model of having weekly committee meetings for all planning projects including member of faculty, building/grounds, security, students, registrar etc. so everyone is on board for every step of the process.
  • Get help from experts at other institutions to perform an intuitional audit.
  • The strategic planning process is often upside-down.
  • We need more developed thinking on student-oriented production facilities.
  • There are many resources available to help in the planning, designing, and implementation. Visit other institutions to see what works how.
  • Consider communications plan to the campus community. As you develop new facilities, people want to know what’s going on; rumors will develop if there are no good channels of communication.
  • Think about the people – the technology will change.
  • Have Fine Arts faculty come together with computing early in the planning.
  • Provide a variety of learning spaces. Layouts will reduce the reliance on rearranging furniture at the beginning of class.
  • Remember the importance of acculturating different constituencies’ balance flexibility with cost; take a clue from your users but don’t undervalue your observations.
  • When planning learning spaces, furniture, good lighting, etc. can be critical to a successful space, but are often overlooked.
  • Plan for maximum flexibility in classrooms and not only for technology as it is today.
  • It’s never too late to change.
  • A master plan for instructional space builds a coherent faculty vision of how they wish to teach.
  • To develop prototype learning environments, stress how faculty members would like to teach through such means as surveys, etc.
  • Faculty should be involved in the process every step of the way.
  • Map the number and location of different types of classrooms throughout campus.
  • Now is the time to begin a classroom review process.
  • Shapes reflect new uses – get outside the box, reconsider.
  • Master planning classrooms – type, distribution, guidelines.
  • Mapping classrooms for faculty to see type/location.
  • Campus map of classrooms.
  • Create a database of pictures and descriptions of classrooms.
  • Keep the goal of teaching face-to-face interaction.
  • A master plan may present the institution with a plan beyond their current budget limitations, but gives them an informed future with planned structure based on anticipated needs.
  • Involve faculty in developing classroom templates; accommodate departmental variations.
  • Teams from other institutions may be able to suggest solutions that will be effective for your institution as well.
  • Organize focus groups to discuss new plans.
  • Allow lots of time for planning and supplying information for architectural firms.
  • Academic, financial, facilities planning must be integrated.
  • Planning is not predicting the future. It’s making best use of resources, and moving toward a vision and a set of goals.
  • Critical that library mission and vision statement are in line with academic plan. Critical to go into any design/architectural project with a vision – do not rely on the architectural/design planning process to create the vision.
  • Significance of having a vision statement, which clarifies what you want to achieve from a learning standpoint; the vision may be multi-level including departments, programs, and pedagogical concerns.
  • Planning is a process of making informed decisions within a broad institutional context.
  • Keep in mind that the more ambitious the plan is, the longer it takes to achieve it.
  • Keep the academic plan at the center of all planning processes.
  • Planning is decision-making, moving toward vision.
  • Ideal project committee: 7-9 people.
  • Space scheduling policy – max hours per week.
  • Get real data of what’s going on, e.g. classroom utilization, in order to make informed decisions.
  • Planning well is not about fixing what is wrong.
  • Formalize a renewal cycle plan.
  • Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
  • Allocate money and time for planning and real estimates.
  • Think about life cycle costs: plan for continual upgrading.
  • LEED certification identifies energy-efficient and human buildings.
  • Before deciding whether to renovate an existing (possibly unpopular) building or to build a new one, create a vision for the use of the new space. It will help inform the decision.
  • Don’t ask design professional what you should do. Clients should not be asking for direction.
  • Do not discuss the advantages of remodeling – buildings can be totally transformed and greatly improved at significant cost savings.
  • A big part of planning is knowing what questions to ask – and anticipating what questions you will be asked.
  • Institutional values are present in building and classroom designs.
  • Look for examples outside higher ed: corporations, K-12, public libraries.
  • Set aside 2% of the building’s cost for capital improvements.
  • A complete gut renovation usually costs 75% of the cost for a new building.
  • Identify what it is about a proposed project that further distinguishes the institution from its peers.
  • Create a learning space committee to open up expectations and possibilities for campus planning and collaboration.
  • Use benchmark stats from peer colleges to bolster renovation requests.
  • Ask how a new or renovated space will help you tell your story.

Spaces

  • Think of a library as an environment for learning rather than just a facility.
  • Faculty and technology specialists’ offices are learning spaces too.
  • An information commons should be about the delivery of information rather than computers.
  • We shape the spaces, then they shape us.
  • 80% of learning takes place outside the classroom and students spend 2-3 times longer at curved workstations than linear workstations.
  • Academic buildings should be dwellings.
  • Create a sort of Zagat’s guide to exemplary facilities, to share with others and to examine for great idea.
  • A certain college found that “social spaces” came up more then anything else in discussing library space.
  • One size doesn’t fit all.
  • Look into role of dorm room as learning space.
  • Consider changing configuration of classroom seating from semester to semester.
  • There can be two kinds of flexible learning spaces – a variety of fixed-space classrooms, so that faculty can choose these based on their preferences; and rooms with inherent flexibility, that can be changed from day to day.
  • Information commons should offer a variety of working environments ranging from public to private.
  • High visibility and social spaces in the media cloisters – not isolating the technology from the “traditional” library spaces.
  • Well-designed spaces lead people to want to wok there.
  • Media cloisters are valuable for exploration and experimentation.
  • Beta-testing a space is a critical step in getting it right.
  • To a scientist and teacher, the Scientific Visualization Laboratory seems to be the epitome of what a learning space should be.
  • Using distinctive lighting and carpeting to guide patrons.
  • Reminder: design spaces and buildings that will welcome the surrounding community into the institution.
  • It’s okay to use compact shelving in an undergraduate open stack area to make room for new staff and services in the library.
  • Not all students want library cafes.
  • Pay attention to librarians’ offices.
  • Information Commons: Create a village green model – a shared public space that can be the focus of a variety of activities and services.
  • Triangle model for space: office -> research lab -> teaching lab
  • Humanities are now considering and asking for research space just as have their science colleagues.
  • Keep greenhouses visible – resist putting them on the roof.
  • Use the idea that other colleges are “doing it better” to motivate your college to improve, and explain why.
  • Money follows success: Do a sexy project first to build support, then ask for support for necessary but less glamorous projects.
  • Magic number of students per study table: 4.
  • Try to bring natural light into every room.
  • Program spaces that aren’t programmed.
  • Characteristics of informal space: energy, variety, comfort, convenient, public vs. private acoustics, lighting, tools – whiteboard, wireless access, flat space
  • “Plan Caffeine” An environment that offers caffeine and food will attract students.
  • To retain informal spaces during cost-cutting – justify them as an extension of the learning process, not merely for leisure. They should be part of the net assignable program.
  • We must regain the library as the community’s academic center of intellectual and social interactions.
  • What sort of teaching do faulty do in their offices? What sort might they wish to do? How can we accommodate them?
  • “Interspace” as an architectural potential.
  • What students will remember most fondly are the nooks & crannies within the library and their times of solace in these spaces.
  • Build spaces for our commonly valued unknowing; create space for quiet reflection.
  • Architecture confronts doubt with hope.
  • Intellectual “browsing” and “wandering” are important.
  • It is important to create a popular informal space.

Students

  • In addition to receiving information in traditional fashion, students should be given opportunities for creative production, both textual and visual forms. Newly conceived learning spaces can meet this need.
  • Students want a socially academic experience.
  • Forget the space and furniture and start with student needs.
  • Don’t make assumptions about how students use spaces – measure and analyze this.
  • Students like to see and be seen. Knowing what is going on is an invitation to participation.

Future

  • Where are our libraries in the academic plan, 5-or 10-year plan? Pinpointing key players in the long range planning process to ensure library in all plans.
  • Identify Assistant Project Shepherd for projects that appear far off (7-10 years).

Vision

  • “Think big”
  • “Think small”
  • Focus on what faculty want to do in a teaching space and get them to describe their dreams. They know what they want but don’t understand how to get there.
  • Don’t be afraid to dream.
  • First discuss HOW you want to teach and conduct research with students, then translate those goals into spaces. Don’t let cement rooms or technologies constrain your vision.
  • It may be possible to reduce “teaching load” by focusing on the intensity of pedagogy as a key element in the discussion.
  • Create a process to open conversation about reducing course load that goes beyond more faculty, e.g. class size, changing sequence of course offerings.
  • Address politics of the 50-minute class and assignment of space.
  • Ask faculty how they would like to teach rather than what kind of technology they want.

Other

  • Concept of “deeper learning”: active, contextual, engaged, locally owned, social.
  • What a wonderful library – best evidence of why distance learning will never replace the university.
  • Best advice: It is important not to reinvent the wheel.
  • Is remote storage of library materials a reasoned decision in support of progress or a political decision to avoid setting priorities?
  • We need a faculty survey both to get a better feel of where they are but also to get more buy-in.
  • Town/gown issues: issues of inviting the right type of town folk onto campus.
  • “Avoid the men with the capes”: Fanatical ideology will kill the project due to cost.
  • We must address the “subjunctive mood” of contemporary academic planning and administration.
  • What we expect will be different when we encounter