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Breaking Up the Classroom For The Next Generation Of Students

The trend away from the “Factory-Model Classroom” is in full swing. Educators, administrators, and students have realized the traditional approach toward classroom design is no longer adequate to meet the diverse and rapidly changing needs of Generation Z. The students of tomorrow demand an environment that encourages collaboration and fosters self-directed learning. Inviting, clean, and interactive learning spaces can support a variety of teaching styles, while providing nearly unlimited flexibility.

One of the drivers behind this shift is the acknowledgement that students retain information better when they learn by doing, rather than passively being lectured to.

“Tell me and I’ll forget.

Teach me and I’ll remember.

Involve me and I’ll learn.”

Ben Franklin famously said: “Tell me and I’ll forget. Teach me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll learn.” A recent study from the University of Chicago supports this notion. Researchers found that students who take a hands-on approach to learning scientific concepts not only score better on tests, but have a deeper and more complete understanding of the topic1.

Education can’t remain a one-way street if colleges and universities hope to attract and retain students. The University of Texas at Austin estimates that only one-half of community college students return for their second year, and many leave before even completing the first semester2. In order to help increase student engagement and curb drop-out rates, many institutions are focusing on redesigning both classrooms and shared work environments.

In order to help increase student engagement and curb drop-out rates, many institutions are focusing on redesigning both classrooms and shared work environments.

Bryant University in Rhode Island recently invested over $31 Million dollars in a new state-of-the art facility called the Academic Innovation Center (AIC)3. This 48,000 SF building center is a collaborative environment for faculty members to employ innovative teaching methods. University President Ron Machtley said the new AIC leverages: “writable whiteboard surfaces available for students to break into groups and brainstorm concepts, integrated technology, and moveable furniture.”

Projects like the AIC are prime examples of how modular learning spaces shift education away from competitive to collaborative.

Reconfigurable classrooms and public spaces allow educators and students to seamlessly shift between small group formations, private study spaces, and town-hall style lectures. This balance between the new and the old allows for a mix of improvisation that keeps students from feeling unengaged with course material.

Collaborative work spaces are not limited to the classroom. In order to model an environment so common in coffee shops or the lofty new open spaces in Silicon Valley, universities are transforming libraries, study halls, media labs, and even Student Unions using similar design strategies.

The University of North Texas (UNT) is using mobile room dividers that are perfect for small groups and individual study. These dividers also feature strong university branding elements that create a sense of school pride and are attractive for prospective students.

Stand and deliver lecture environments are a way of the past. Modular furniture and collaborative surfaces like the Clarus go! Mobile Glassboard are breaking down barriers like the open office concept did with cubicles. Today’s learning environments are a mix of the social and creative, of mobility, choice, and comfort.