Designing for 21st Century Learning in Higher Education

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New CBT study explores the impact of smart campus design and how colleges can bridge the gap between college classrooms and the workplace

We’re finding that creating spaces which offer plenty of connections – both visual and physical – result in higher employee productivity, less absenteeism, and longer periods of employment. And our clients certainly benefit from this in the long-term.

Boston-based design firm CBT has released a new study entitled “Higher Expectations for Higher Education: Bridging the Gap between Campus and Workplace,” which examines the ways that classroom design can positively or negatively affect students’ preparedness for today’s workplace. The piece is the newest in the series of CBT Studies, an ongoing research series into the ways design impacts life on campus.

“Higher Expectations for Higher Education: Bridging the Gap between Campus and Workplace,” addresses timely topics, including:

  •     The non-traditional skillsets that employers seek in recent graduates today
  •     Ways that classroom design can influence social and professional development
  •     How universities can keep pace with pedagogical shifts through interactive, modern design
  •     Surprising cost differentials for alternative classroom types

The study suggests that higher-education learning environments have not kept pace with the ways that today’s physical workplaces are evolving, resulting in a disconnect for new graduates when they join the workforce. Students who learn in traditional classroom or lecture hall environments are not sufficiently exposed to experiential learning or strategic problem-solving opportunities, which translate into the development of real-world skills.

Today, as companies increasingly seek more interactive spaces in their offices like collaborative hubs, “touchdown” spaces, and social cafés within the work environment, the new emphasis on team building and active problem-solving provides a lesson for designing space in the years preceding entry into the workforce.

“Unlike in the past, the way that companies want their employees to interact today has skewed dramatically toward a highly social model,” says Lois Goodell, Principal and Director of CBT’s Workplace Interiors Group. “We’re finding that creating spaces which offer plenty of connections – both visual and physical – result in higher employee productivity, less absenteeism, and longer periods of employment. And our clients certainly benefit from this in the long-term.”

Some forward-looking institutions like Harvard, Babson College and Northeastern University are adapting to the 21st century learning environment by integrating innovation labs and “tinker spaces” for students.

“Old-fashioned educational environments just aren’t cutting it anymore,” says Paul Viccica, AIA, Principal and a leader of CBT’s Academic group. “What we’re seeing is that creative and imaginative classroom design supports new learning and teaching methods that in turn prepare college students for the world after graduation.”

The full study can be viewed here.

This new study follows the most recent CBT Study, “Building for the Future: The Value of Post-Occupancy Evaluation,” where CBT’s Academic Group held an active roundtable discussion with several university leaders on lessons they learned from new buildings on campus.

About CBT
CBT is an award-winning, Boston-based design firm working nationally and internationally on projects at all scales, including urban district master plans to large-scale mixed-use developments, building repositioning, multi-family residential, hospitality interiors, workplace interiors, academic and civic projects. Over 250 awards recognize excellence and creativity in the firm’s design of new buildings and the renovation of existing structures. Clients come to us for our ability to provide strategic design services in a broad number of project types and styles, our real estate acumen, and our skill in blending high quality planning and architecture with practical goals of building performance, budget and schedule. The core values at the heart of the practice are creativity in our design, social responsiveness in our community, and collegial behavior in our efforts.

About CBT’s Academic and Workplace Practice Groups
CBT’s Academic and Workplace design groups combine talents to create spaces that are relevant to today’s emerging professionals and that respond to contemporary pedagogical and workplace needs. Understanding that all spaces must serve an ever-changing population of users while solving real estate challenges, the Academic and Workplace design professionals at CBT offer their unique fusion of expertise to deliver durable, elegant, and tailored environments that are future-ready.

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Jonathan Pappas
Solomon, McCown & Co., Inc.
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