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What Will The Campus Become?

Image © Gensler

In July 2013, the SCUP 48 conference in San Diego California hosted a discovery session. Two leaders from Cornell and Lynn University gathered with me and over 100 attendees to react to the Changing Course research that Gensler published in the fall of 2012.We led a discussion on the topic. Everyone that attended the session was charged with creating knowledge based on their collective experiences and conversations to better understand what the campus of the future will look like.

The conversation starters were Bob Balder, Executive Director of College of Architecture, Art & Planning, Cornell University in New York, Chris Boniforti, Chief Information Manager of Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida and me, on behalf of Gensler Chicago.

The Changing Course of academic environments is real. Campuses are being asked to evolve and respond to a new type of student: the Digital Native student. The Freshman arriving on campus this fall were born in 1995. Students today have ditched Facebook in favor of Instagram and Twitter. They are not calling their friends and leaving voice mails but rather texting, and Snapchatting (photos that are automatically deleted from the snapchat server from 1 second to 10 seconds after viewing).

What this all means is that just as today’s student could not survive with the Motorola 8500 in their hand, but rather, they expect the connectivity and flexibility of the iPhone, they expect the campus environment to have evolved just as much as their phone device. . . and it hasn’t.

So we jumped into this with both feet.

Image © Gensler

Bob pointed out that at Cornell, the Campus is the Live Social Network. The physical and social qualities of a campus must support all modes of learning. Students want the campus to give them real-world experiences. A program Bob leads in Manhattan gets beyond the simulated issues and engages the students in real problems. These “learning laboratories” students and clients work together to provide tangible work products that advance the goals and objectives of the client while at the same time demonstrating to the student a process of critical problem solving beyond text book regurgitation.

At Lynn University, this fall they are embarking on putting an iPad in the hands of every student. The ultimate ubiquitous technological solution has been prepared with training for faculty, preparation for students and the understanding that while technology is not the key to great spaces, the connectivity to the digital world beyond the campus walls is a critical component to the type of student that they want to send into the real world after graduation.

Do these two examples paint a different University environment than you were used to? These are still based in the methodical process of learning development, however, points to an evolution of curriculum and process that responds better to the Digital Native student. The Changing Course research, findings from over 250 higher education students, charts their perception of their surrounding learning environment and points to the fact that today’s campus is not working for them. The survey unveiled satisfaction ratings of 19% for lecture Halls, 22% for libraries. Opinion polls with results like these would cause politicians to wince and CEOS to fall, but for some reason on campus they have not caused a revolt. . . yet.

Image © Gensler

The group was divided into 15 smaller discussion groups, each focusing on one of three topics:

  1. Are Campuses still critical to learning
  2. How will the campus need to change to facilitate learning in an increasingly digital world
  3. What do the students want the campus to do?

Across the 15 groups, the results were very similar. It appeared that these SCUP attendees- leaders from across the country are all ideating about the same topics.

Serendipitous Face-to-Face Interactions

  • Campus needs to take advantage of the interdisciplinary activities and provide for places for interaction to happen. Create Cross Disciplinary spaces to allow for intra school exploration – Break down the silos.
  • It is not a question of MOOC versus Face to Face interaction. Both will survive, both will need to evolve.

Comingling of teaching spaces and faculty offices

  • Students want to interact with faculty members outside of office hours
  • Creating common spaces for all members of the school, faculty, students and administration would provide for great opportunities for mentorship and inspiration.

A safe place to innovate, fail and try again

  • Campus is already a safe place for social exploration. The challenge was for spaces that encourage deeper academic and professional innovation and incubation.

Engaged learning environments

  • More Simulation Learning environments
  • Ubiquitous Technology and Wifi. (Full Campus Wifi -indoors and outdoors)
  • Learning occurs beyond the classroom walls.

Wellbeing on the Academic Campus

  • Treat outdoor spaces as learning environments and not just connector paths
  • Spaces that demonstrate Life/Work balance
  • Stress on campus is high, create spaces and interaction zones to offset.

What do you think? Where do you see on your campus heading to respond to the Digital Native students and beyond?

David Broz is very involved in his community, sitting on nearly a dozen not-for-profit boards and committees, ranging from "Placemaking in the Loop" to "Multicultural Scholars Program at the University of Kansas." A common thread runs through his work and his volunteer efforts: the desire to create great spaces to live, work, and play that respond to today's social and economic realities. Contact him at david_broz@gensler.com.

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