Modern Authentic Learning Environments - Improve Education and Attract Students
With the rise of mobile technologies, distance learning, and online degree programs, there’s been a lot of hand-wringing within the higher education community about the future of bricks-and-mortar college campuses. Would students of the future—raised on screen time, tethered to their mobile devices and social media accounts—be willing to show up for coursework IRL (in real life)? Would academic buildings and classrooms simply become dusty relics of a bygone era?
But in the last few years, the conversation has shifted from “Will campuses be needed at all?” to “How can we transform campuses to meet the needs of tomorrow’s learners?” For many higher education institutions, one solution has been to build authentic learning environments, or classrooms that are designed to mimic real-life workplaces—such as an emergency room mockup for nursing students, a simulated trading floor for future stockbrokers, or a campus cafe for aspiring chefs. Also called maker spaces or hands-on learning spaces, here’s how authentic learning environments can outperform traditional teaching spaces:
They promote learning by doing. A simulated real-world setting helps students apply their knowledge and skill directly in the context of the places they will intern at and work post-graduation and provides opportunities for self-guided instruction and peer-to-peer projects and learning.
They allow dynamic teaching. An authentic learning environment allows for continual monitoring and feedback on what students are learning, enabling instructors to evaluate performance, tailor lesson plans, and target subject areas or activities needing extra attention.
They attract top-notch students and instructors. Research shows that next-generation learners are hungry for real-world experience and crave the F2F (face-to-face) in-person physical environments of a college campus. Similarly, future professors and instructors are drawn to institutions with top-notch facilities and groundbreaking technology.
Whether built from the ground up or as part of a renovation, authentic learning environments require more planning and closer collaboration during design versus typical lecture style classrooms. But when done right, they improve the pace, quality, and effectiveness of learning—reaping big benefits for the students and instructors who use them and for the institutions who invest to build them.