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Learning is Virtual, but Students Aren't

January 2013 update: Read our full research report “Changing Course.”

We talk a lot about the changes that technology is bringing to college campuses. New students are increasingly comfortable with mobile and collaborative technologies. Online research and resource databases, video lectures, and distance-learning models are challenging traditional mainstays of education from the large-lecture format to the university library.

As interesting as these changes are, I don’t think they tell the whole story. In 2011, Gensler published a research report No More Teachers, No More Books? based on roundtables with students, teachers and administrators. The results highlighted a shift in the perceived value of the college campus and student needs, showing a trend towards multi-modal teaching strategies and teachers acting as facilitators rather than conveyors of knowledge. The value proposition of the college experience is changing—what students come for, and are willing to pay for, is experience and connections.

Our next research, to be released in the upcoming weeks, focuses on student preferences and on-campus experiences. It attempts to understand specific gaps in college facilities that, if addressed, can enhance the student experience and realign campuses with 21st century learning pedagogy and realities. What we’re learning is that physical space still plays a huge role, but that it’s not playing that role well on many campuses today. And, interestingly, this new generation of students still spends the largest proportion of their time studying alone and prefers it that way.

For more information, take a look at a video I recorded discussing our preliminary findings and a proposed SxSW Edu panel session entitled “What Will the Campus Become?” In addition to me, the panel will include Don Huesman of The Wharton School, Nora Bynum of Duke University and Ricki Goldman of New York University. If you’re interested, vote for us to make it through to the final conference!


Maddy Burke-Vigeland is an Architect and Principal who leads Gensler’s Education and Culture Practice Area. Maddy directs the strategic vision for Gensler’s education design network, engaging institutions in creating learning environments for the 21st century. Contact her at maddy_burke@gensler.com.

Reader Comments (2)

I am really satisfied for reading this about your allocation, great article post. In expediency thank you! Good luck for the next! Want more.
11.13.2012 | Unregistered Commenterthesis help
Hi Maddy,

Always interested in what you're up to. I love your blog. It reminds me of an adage about school that I first heard when Liv was going into middle school. It goes something like this. When you're young, education is about learning how. As you advance, it's about how to learn.

It seems there is a paradigm shift afoot here, yes? It strikes me that as educational institutions re-think the learning journey, how that translates into an educational experience and the approach to campus place-making, the most powerful value propositions will be rooted in institutional values and redefine brands. Importantly, they will also promote a broadly expanded set of roles for educational institutions as facilitators of community.

Looking forward to more good thinking from Gensler.

Warm regards,
Evan Molho
02.1.2013 | Unregistered CommenterEvan Molho

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