Learning Space Design in Higher Education

In: The Translational Design of Universities

Abstract

The significant changes in higher education learning and teaching over the past decades, such as increased information and communication technology, and evolving learning theories have resulted in the dilemma whether higher education institutions can facilitate tomorrow’s learning and teaching in today’s or even yesterday’s school buildings.

The purpose of this chapter is to illustrate the spatial implications of ‘new ways of learning’ in higher education. It therefore first describes the developments in higher education learning and teaching. Next, it presents a framework that elucidates the alignment of the physical study environment with learning theories and educational processes in higher education. Furthermore, the chapter covers the design and space characteristics of contemporary learning spaces. The chapter also addresses which learning spaces higher education students prefer for their study activities and it illuminates the students’ design preferences for the physical learning environment based on a quantitative study that involved 697 Dutch business management students.

The chapter concludes with some learning space planning guidelines and practical implications. We show that ‘new ways of learning’ cause a shift in learning settings in school buildings with a growing attention to facilitating autonomy, interaction and knowledge exploration anytime and anywhere. Increasingly every square meter of the built environment has the potential to support the learning activities of a student, from home to the classroom and all kinds of other settings in between, such as a coffee house, café, restaurant, bar, museum, library and public spaces, such as streets, parks or public transport. Nevertheless, the findings of the qualitative study show that students prefer quiet learning spaces for study activities. Students favour quiet, closed learning space at the university, such as project rooms for collaborative activities or quiet areas to study individually. Regarding their learning space, students’ value functional attributes of the physical learning environment as most important.

The content of this chapter contributes to a better understanding of the alignment of learning space to the evolving needs that come from new ways of learning supported by advanced information and communication technology. The presented framework and the findings presented in the chapter can be used by higher education institutions to support learning space planning and strategic decision-making about the physical learning environment.

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