Higher Education Design Plays a Role in Workplace Readiness for 21st Century Students
What can designers of modern higher educational institutions do to ensure that 21st Century students are best equipped to face the realities of transitioning from learning to working? Spatial design can help make higher education more productive by focusing on how to capture efficiencies, deliver instruction in new ways, and work smarter. Working together with colleges and universities, designers can help guide clients to prudent and courageous decisions regarding their physical assets.
Designing for Critical Communication
Readiness for the workforce of the future depends on many factors, but none are more important than hiring workers who can communicate clearly and comprehensively in multiple modes and settings. Modern workplaces are comprised of a variety of spaces where successful workers must be able to communicate in ever shifting physical configurations. Dated, inflexible traditional offices are rapidly being replaced with open, flexible designs that encourage individual, one-on-one, and small and large group communication and interaction.
In response, our integrated design teams create educational environments that plan and build the spaces where higher education students will be comfortable and inspired to function in such surroundings. We understand the need to design spaces that facilitate focused and singular learning and task work; support team work for conversations, idea creation, and sharing; promote larger team collaboration and presentation expertise; and encourage needed social time to decompress and recharge from high stress projects.
Our most successful higher education designs use colors, materials, textures, and finishes that brand a space with a clear identity and wayfinding markers to demarcate magnet spaces that attract and keep students engaged on campus. Such spaces provide college and university students exposure to both the pressures and promises of modern workforce environments, modeling future real-life situations, and give students a jump start on project leadership and entrepreneurial skills that can pave their way to career achievement.
Technology Spaces that Work
A second critical skill for careers of the future is technological expertise. Modern learning environments are ripe with distractions and distortions. An integral part of college and university students’ success often overlooked is properly “tuning” these spaces. Throughout the entire design process, state-of-the art acoustics must be built in to guarantee unhampered listening and learning environments.
Audio/visual/technology design can make or break the success of a space. These features should be intuitive, easy to use, and properly scaled. A recent design challenge we faced was considering how the combination of density and technology impact communication. To address this, we examined carefully the issue of spill-over or background noise into phone discussions. From there we designed the optimal program for the space, and selected the best finishes to absorb sound. Focusing on such details can mitigate various distractions, giving students continuous focus for quality and efficiency.
As higher education campuses become more sensitive to multi-disciplinary learning by forging partnerships with businesses and industry, and driving entrepreneurship, innovative design thinking is a critical part of the mix.