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Tuesday
Sep202016

Beyond Business School: How Innovation Is Filling the Education/Workplace Divide

At The University of Kansas’s new School of Business, Capitol Federal Hall, teachers and students use a multitude of public and private spaces to meet, collaborate and learn. Image by Garrett Rowland

The Value of Entrepreneurialism

In recent years workforce needs have shifted to value entrepreneurial skills, with education gradually reflecting this shift. Entrepreneurship reaches far beyond the concept of creating a business. Rather, it is a mind-set that looks for opportunities and answers to critical challenges. Understanding how to prepare all students, not just budding tycoons, for the current work landscape is essential when designing for education, and transformative for its landscape too.

Classroom > Workplace < Classroom: A new space type bridging worlds

As schools stretch to create seamless transitions from the learning environment to the working one, educational environments are beginning to look more like the workplace than traditional teaching spaces. Likewise, workspaces are striving to look more like educational ones as they seek to become more collaborative and innovative. The incubation/innovation space permeates and bridges the worlds of education and work. As that space between continues to grow, it will merge them into one common work/learn environment.

Shifting Environments

In the past, educational spaces consisted of a series of classrooms of varying sizes and traditional formats, faculty offices and few communal spaces. While it’s taken some time, these spaces are starting to shift as they absorb approaches to teaching and learning that prioritize collaboration and active engagement.

As we move toward a new era in learning environments, these educational spaces will resemble hackable workplaces with flexible furniture modules, smaller seminar rooms and more open collaborative areas in which faculty and students can work together side-by-side. These spaces reflect a greater flexibility in accommodating a wide variety of teaching styles, curriculum and programs and can be altered as needed. This highlights a shift to a less hierarchical community in educational space. We no longer hold fast to previous models of structure, and seek facilities where faculty and students can align their scholarly passions and drive towards new discoveries together.

The recently designed 12,000-square-foot Garage is an incubator for accelerating innovation on the Northwestern campus and integrating the university with the greater entrepreneurial community. Photo by Garrett Rowland.

Experiential Learning—For Students and Teachers

Educators are leading initiatives to explore more project-based learning and examining new ways of the delivering instruction. Partnerships between industry and academia are growing and have the potential to change the landscape of our campuses as of this year.

The collaboration and investment industry partners can bring by co-locating near or even on a campus can spin off into new opportunities for growth and innovation all around. Intellectual exchange and research can be fostered together, benefitting the institution, students and the industry partners alike—not to mention their host city.

Changes in Education Funding and Campus Design

Decreased funding requires academia to look for support and sponsorship in more unconventional ways. In the past it was a signature donor that would step up and make a contribution; however, today as buildings get more expensive and programmatically complex, funding is often a combination of donors and a result of a multitude of interests. Donors are typically looking for buildings that reflect the “academia-removed” ideology of what learning is about. This is leading many schools, and not just business schools, to want to emulate the work environment. As a result, their buildings are looking more like corporate campuses—complex, vibrant, and programmatically diverse.

At the Etsy Headquarters in Dumbo, Brooklyn, spaces blur the lines between workplace and learning – celebrating the art of making and discovery. Photo by Garrett Rowland.

Planning for a Volatile Future

Institutions of higher education are planning new buildings and capital campaigns in a volatile economic and geo-political climate. We have to keep in mind that the skills our future workforce will need may not have much to do with the way we teach and learn today. There is an ever-present need to stay attuned to cultural shifts in learning, and create spaces and environments that are adaptable to these changes, and successfully prepares students for an evolving workforce. How we approach design for education and work is converging on the same. For both, we need to create dynamic environments that provide a platform as of this year.

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.
Maja Nesdale is a firmwide practice area leader for our Education practice. At Gensler London she is deeply involved in designing enhanced learning environments that deliver innovative learning experience for all levels of students. Maja has extensive experience working with diverse clients and delivering successful projects of various scales across sectors. Contact her at maria_nesdale@gensler.com.