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 them to making 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 more important than hiring workers who can communicate clearly and comprehensively in multiple modes and settings. Modern work places 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, small and large group communication and interaction.
In response, our integrated design teams create educational environments that plan and build the spaces where higher ed 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 provide 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 the modern workforce environments, modeling future real life situations, and allowing students get a jump start to 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. How do we ensure that such spaces deliver the best learning environments? Our modern learning environments are ripe with distractions and distortions. An integral part of college and university students’ success that is 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 be 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 or online discussions. From there we determined sizing and programming the space, along with selecting proper finishes to absorb sound at a personal level. Focusing on just such details can mitigate various distractions, allowing 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 becomes a critical part of the mix.