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Designing Collaborative Learning Spaces

Designing Collaborative Learning Spaces

Posted In // Design Tips

Collaborative learning spaces on the rise

Colleges and universities understandably want to take advantage of the latest technology and education studies to make the classroom experience as strong as possible for instructors and students. To meet that objective, classrooms are increasingly turning to the collaborative learning space.

This environment turns away from the typical lecture hall format and reconceives the classroom as an atmosphere for interaction and collaboration. The professor will typically not talk the whole session in this type of classroom, instead answering questions and giving handouts to students, circulating to different parts of the room.

Standard elements of collaboration-centered design

A few core features should be included in rooms built for collaborative learning:

• There should be various surfaces on which you can display images or video (via projectors mounted on the ceiling and flat panels for computer/video material).

• There should be plenty of places to write on the walls.

• Furniture should be easily adaptable, according to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. To enhance collaborative learning, “[c]hairs are on wheels to enable easy navigation,” says UNCC, and “[r]oom size allows for easy reconfiguration during activities.”

• The space should include collaborative workstations near the perimeter where students can use technology and put together assignments.

Implementation on your campus

As Campus Technology stresses, you really want to get everyone onboard when you try a new model of education that requires sweeping changes to the physical space.

Your first concern is the faculty. The University of Central Oklahoma involved professors on the design in the early planning stages of an $8.5 million collaborative facility. Faculty input came in two forms: the discussions of a task force (which included about 12 professors) and interviews with members of the faculty senate.

Make sure you get a good sampling of student perspectives as well. The administration at UCO created a student task force that also had about 12 members. The school’s officials continue to directly observe the classrooms to refine their development.

The power of rethinking educational space

Peter C. Lippman notes in THE Journal that design professionals often tend to focus too much on the physical components and not enough on the actual process of learning. “N]ot only do ambient characteristics such as sound, light, temperature, air quality, and spatial support for bodily movement affect how individuals acquire knowledge,” he adds, “but social relationships and cultural values play an important role in … engagement.”

Are you designing a collaborative learning environment? Work with a space planning firm that can incorporate the needs of administration, faculty, and students. At Beaux-Arts Group, we optimize collaboration, allowing for a forward-thinking synergy between your facility and the learning process. Contact a design specialist.
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