Today’s teenagers, people who will be attending universities in the near
future, have never known life without computers, smartphones, or the
Internet. They are arriving on campus knowing more than ever before. They
bring different attitudes, talents, opinions, and expectations to the classroom.
The technology is intuitive to them. They are natural collaborators. They make
decisions faster. Video gamers, for example, make decisions five times faster
than non-gamers. This is not an incremental change from the previous generation
of college students, but a fundamental shift. Of necessity, universities are scrambling to adapt to these changes and remain relevant to their key constituents.
When you consider that these same Digital Natives will soon be streaming
into the workforce with even more advanced tools and newer ways of working, technology’s effect on designing workspaces will be as dramatic as it is
today in designing higher education spaces.
The idea of educational spaces and workspaces has been static for a
long time. No more. Today’s designers face a dynamic, moving target.
Running parallel to the dramatic changes technology is effecting on campus is the
astronomically rising cost of college. In the past 20
years, college tuition has increased a breathtaking
550 percent. Meanwhile, incomes, even for people
in the 90th percentile, have increased only 90
percent in that same period. People with lesser
incomes, of course, have fared much worse.
People are asking questions about college
they’ve never really asked before, like: Is it
worth it? How do you justify enormous debt
when the prospect of being able to pay it back
seems more and more remote?
Fewer than 10 percent of today’s college
students are majoring in liberal arts. For most,
college is about preparing for a job. The fact
remains that higher education is vital to becoming
a competitive, productive member of the workforce. So what is a college to do?
The best way to understand what higher education was like in the 15th century is to walk
into a contemporary college lecture hall and just
imagine the professor speaking Latin. The pro-fessorial lecture has been the mode of choice
for imparting knowledge for more than 600
years. Finally, it is becoming passé. Students are
more and more put off with traditional methods.
They feel that only 26 percent of their readings
are relevant to their lives. And they are forcing
faculties and universities to change with them.
Tomorrow’s college experience will be very different
from that of just a few years ago, never mind a
generation or two ago. This will require designers
to think about future higher education spaces in
entirely new ways. At least 10
distinct trends will impact them:
1. Flipping the Classroom
What was once classwork
or lecture material has now become homework. What were once
homework projects have now become in-class activities done in
collaboration with classmates and under the supervision of professors.
How’s that for change?
In the flipped classroom, students prepare for class by collecting
information from various sources on their own time online in their dorm
rooms, in a library cubicle, or some other special space designed for
that purpose. Then, during class, the teacher answers questions or
poses a problem based on that material and then facilitates the students’
efforts to find a solution. Students today are used to collaborating like
this, and it builds valuable skills like critical thinking, teamwork, and
2. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)
MOOCs are online courses that are available,
usually at no cost, to basically anyone with a
web connection. Instead of a professor being
able to reach just those in his or her lecture hall,
MOOCs enable them to simultaneously teach
hundreds of thousands of students.
There are several leading for-profit MOOC
providers working in partnership with some of
the finest universities in America. This is a trend
that has everybody thinking—or rethinking—the
entire question of the value of pursuing a four-year
degree in the traditional, costly, on-campus setting.
Some traditional universities are already
offering MOOC-only graduate degrees at a fraction
of the in-person, on-campus cost. Others are
incorporating MOOCs into the flipped classroom
concept, creating hybrid courses that improve
student performance. In one California state
university, incorporating content from an online
course into a for-credit, campus-based course
increased pass rates to 91 percent from as low
as 55 percent without the online component.
MOOCs are also a wonderful recruiting tool for
universities, allowing them to give students a taste
of the experience before they choose to attend.
At the moment, most MOOCs are not-for-credit.
But a lot of work is being done to try to figure
how to give students credit and how to charge
them for it. And it is changing fast. Obviously,
MOOCs will affect how universities think about,
design, and employ their physical spaces.
3. Teaching in Teams
In traditional pedagogy, “the assumption
is that every professor is good at everything
and needs to be good at everything,”
says James R. Davis, dean of University
EDUCATION THEN EDUCATION NOW
Teacher Focus Student Focus
Mass Production Mass Customization
Lecture Based Project Based
Teacher as Sage Teacher as Guide
Content Focus Critical Focus
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