7. Widespread Video Collaboration
Today’s Digital Natives are perfectly comfortable sharing screens. And
technology gives anyone, anywhere the potential to share with anyone else,
anywhere else. Underserved students in cities or jungles can now connect
to a vast spectrum of learning experiences via You Tube, as well as those
provided by schools and educational websites such as Kahn Academy.
This kind of mass education is only one of the peripheral effects of
widespread video collaboration. According to Steve Delfino, vice president
of corporate marketing and product management at Teknion, it will
transform economic society around the world. Just one example is
in Ethiopia at Jimma University. To address its lack of resources
and teaching staff, the university has installed a video conferencing
system in classrooms and offices.
This system enables Jimma University to conduct video lectures,
expand distance-learning programs, and connect to other universities
and government departments. A real-time media platform allows for
multipoint conferencing with other campuses and permits connecting
10 to 12 classrooms at once.
Widespread video collaboration also offers a way to truly engage
students in a new kind of educational experience rather than just
tweaking what we’ve always done, but digitally.
Since the advent of Sesame Street nearly 50 years ago, people have
sought to embrace the idea of making learning fun. Gamification takes
that idea to a dramatic new level.
Applying game thinking and game mechanics to education has
been found to build engagement and personalize learning. A core
gaming strategy is to provide rewards for accomplishing certain tasks:
e.g., points, a progress bar, or certificates of achievement. Gaming
also attempts to minimize cognitive fatigue or frustration, respond to
an individual’s strengths and weaknesses, and tap into intrinsic
motivation, as opposed to the pressures of external competition.
Data of students’ performance can be collected and analyzed.
This data can then be used to inform and adapt teaching methods,
as well as to assess teacher effectiveness. Several pilot programs
in New York City and Santa Monica, Calif., have found that making
school feel “less like school and more like real life” helps students
experience purposeful learning.
MOOC courses offered by Coursera in the spring of 2013
included not only Human-Computer Interaction and Songwriting, but
also Gamification. According to the Coursera website’s description,
“Effective games leverage both psychology and technology, in ways
that can be applied outside the immersive environments of games
themselves. Gamification as a business practice has exploded over
the past two years ... in areas such as marketing, human resources,
productivity enhancement, sustainability, training, health and wellness,
innovation, and customer engagement.”
No doubt gamification will soon migrate to and perhaps “explode”
in higher education, and will affect the design demands of space in
ways that are hard to predict.
9. Active Learning
Also known as experiential learning, active learning taps into the social
nature of Digital Natives. These students thrive on collaboration, group
projects, and sharing ideas; sitting in a traditional lecture hall or
sequestered deep in the stacks of the library, they quickly lose interest.
Judging by the way it is being embraced both by students and
educational institutions alike, active learning is a very important trend.
Though it is not entirely new—internships, apprenticeships, and student
teaching have existed for years—active learning has been taken to
new levels by technology via hands-on projects and real-life simulations.
The ultimate indication of its importance is the fact that colleges are
willing to invest capital in the form of building design to support it.
10. Big Data
There is a torrent of data: 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated
a day. The potential power of this is only now being appreciated and
leveraged. One opportunity is to use related data to get answers to
questions previously considered beyond reach. In the world of higher
learning, big data can help capture more complete views of students,
their activities, and what influences the choices they make.
Big data will also influence design choices, because it will help
colleges and universities better manage their real estate and classroom
scheduling. In an age when classroom use is falling—as students spend
more time interning, researching, and teaming in informal spaces—it is
more important than ever for universities to leverage every square foot of
their real estate. Though its future impact regarding education remains
unknown, the potential of big data is still in its infancy and is something
to pay attention to in the future.
The embrace of technology is total, and not merely by students—teachers
have adopted it as well. Just consider a few facts.
w 38% of college students cannot go 10 minutes without technology
w 65% use digital devices to create presentations
w 82% use a device to research or write
w 50% of those who own a digital device regularly read e-textbooks
w 79% of their students access
w 76% of their students submit
w 91% of their students think email is
the best way to get extra help from
For designers like us, the challenges
and the opportunities technology presents
are enormous. We have to question
everything we think we know about what
college is and how it works. What is the relationship between the students
and the teachers? What is the relationship between everyone and their
classrooms? How do today’s students really learn? And what are the most
efficient, cost-effective ways to help spaces enhance that learning? Is there a
new chalkboard waiting to be invented?