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The Evolution of Learning

EvolutionOfLearning MainWith technology advancing at its current rate, resources in our economy diminishing and an increasing amount of people wanting to enroll in higher education, colleges and universities are continually trying to adapt. There is a constant effort to remain technologically advanced, yet universities still want to hold onto the traditional atmosphere that campuses are historically endowed with.

The world is evolving at such a rapid pace that the future of learning has become a highly debatable topic.   A board of professionals in the higher education field have collaborated and made a list of twelve predictions they foresee taking place in the next five years.

Globalization will significantly affect all facets of education 

The competition for jobs has become even stiffer in today’s society as a result of the internet. China, India, and Eastern Europe are sometimes competing for the same jobs as our graduates. It is suggested that our American educational system be improved in order to be a stronger competitor in the future.  It is becoming more and more common for college students to study outside of their native country. International students attending our U.S. colleges have decreased since 9/11, but the number is starting to rise.

Conversely, a growing amount of American students are interested in attending international universities for graduate work. In fact, over 2.9 million students are looking into an education outside their native country. Many details of global higher education have still not been taken care of. For example, credentialing across borders is still a contested area.

ChangesInTeachingMethodsChanges in teaching methods will become necessary

The student body in colleges and universities is becoming progressively more diverse. This creates issues with learning, as all of the students possess different aptitudes and abilities. Faculty will begin questioning whether the institution needs to provide remedial coursework.

The adult population also ranges in competency of things such as technology, communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Our traditional teaching methods must be reevaluated to fit the needs of modern students.

Classes will require more interactive and “hands-on” learning 

Students today are less interested in large lecture halls, as they benefit more from small group discussions.  Blogs, text messages, and emails are becoming common vehicles for understanding curriculum, and search engines have become the research method of choice rather than brick-and-mortar libraries.

Studies have consistently suggested that interaction during learning helps students internalize the information better. The demand for experimential learning will increase as students want to learn practical skills that prepare them for their chosen field.

Colleges will need to collaborate with employers, and stay up- to-date on the current job requirements. Universities will need to work more closely with the industries, gaining insight on developing their curriculums and internships.

Colleges and Universities will face decreased funds, while having to prove that classroom learning is still necessary 

With the large debt the United States is currently facing, it is expected that colleges will eventually have to run off of smaller means. On top of that, most campuses were built only with durability and cost effectiveness in mind, rather than sustainability. This leaves them unequipped to support the demands of increased power usage, wireless internet capabilities, and larger bandwidth.

Colleges must demonstrate to critics that valuable learning takes place in the classroom. More accurate methods of assessment are needed to refute the arguments that higher education is replaceable in tough economic times.

AdvancedTechnologyNewProcessesAdvanced technology will create need for new processes 

The modern student has a technological competence that was not present in previous generations. As a result, many professors tend to teach in the manner they are familiar with and avoid updating their knowledge. Teaching with technology will no longer be optional, it will be essential.

IT departments face a growing responsibility, as they are challenged to support the entirety of college operations. If departments perceive any preferential treatment in technical support, it harbors a competitive, rather than collaborative, attitude. Advancing technology will affect every service and activity in higher education.

IT workers will be highly valued – one of a colleges greatest assets and liabilities. To protect their health, promote productivity and efficiency, they should be extensively trained in ergonomic computing and ergonomic principles.

Interdisciplinary learning will become more and more prevalent 

Universities are currently structured as separate colleges/departments that do not interact often. They will have to shift their ways to accommodate the rising generation of students who want more of an interactive, collaborative education. Technology may once again be the means of change. Faculty should work together to create a challenging and diverse curriculum. 

Students will become more responsible for their own educations

The increasing number of students enrolled in home schooling and charter schools indicate that people are growing dissatisfied with traditional education establishments. As online learning progresses, the role of the teacher will change. He or she will become more of a partner who monitors and assesses the student’s progress.

CollegeAgePercentage21Student bodies will become increasingly diverse, and the age of the average student will rise

Today, 39% of students in college are above 25 years old, and of them – 18% are over 35. In two-year colleges, the average student is actually close to 30. We are also getting older as a nation, as the percentage of people above age 50 has dramatically increased in recent years.

Some of these people will want to remain in the workforce, and may require additional classes and training to acquire new skills. It will be a major challenge for colleges to teach students of diverse ages and backgrounds. 

Competition for students and resources will increase among colleges. As a result, the  schools will have to distinguish themselves in new ways 

Colleges seek to attract bright, motivated students. Similar to corporations who seek a positive image in order to increase sales, colleges would like to maintain a specific image to keep their enrollment numbers up. In the current state of the economy, high enrollments are essential for a university to keep its funding. The brand image of a college is created by and reflects many dynamics of the university. To maximize appeal for their product, universities need to understand the needs and perceptions of its stakeholders, and adjust themselves accordingly.

Colleges and Universities will become bigger contributors to regional economic growth 

In the past, the relationship between college campuses and the communities they are in have been a bit rocky. However, they are beginning to become increasingly interdependent. Economic development is experiencing a rise in demand, and universities train America’s workforce.

Colleges should become more actively involved in local and regional economic and workforce development issues. Together they can be a strong force that strengthens regional endeavors. Doing so will increase local support for the school when higher education’s future is uncertain.

CollegeFacultyReevaluatedCollege faculty will need to need to be re-evaluated to ensure it is conducive to the current economy and changing student body. 

Researchers’ predictions for the future of college professors is bleak. It is estimated that part-time faculty with lower wagers will increase, rather than full-timed tenured positions. This will result in increasing workloads, wages that do not stay up with inflation, and more applicants for fewer positions.

These things combined have the potential to create a very stressful work environment.  Statistics show that the age of the average faculty member is rising. The economy is causing faculty to continue working beyond the normal retirement age, which decreases the opportunities for younger faculty to receive promotions. It also reduces labor costs and decreases the number of new hires, which could possibly bring new energy or techniques to academic departments. Academic leaders need to re-evaluate personnel policies and hire strategically. They must hire a new generation of faculty that are able to work with the changing student body.

Assessment Tools will be used to define the effectiveness of institutions 

Other countries regulate their higher education facilities through a government ministry. The United States, however, has chosen to use a system of voluntary self-regulation instead. Complaints have been increasing against the college education system, citing low completion rates and poor workforce preparation. It has been proposed that a public database be created, which would contain statistics as well as other information about colleges and universities. It would be viewable to the general public in order to provide necessary accountability of institutions. It could possibly even discuss the learning outcomes of students from specific schools. The reasoning is that colleges would have a more significant motivation toward their student’s success when the statistics are viewable to the public. The idea was criticized for the amount of work effect it would require, and the breach to institution’s integrity. However, if colleges continue to resist solid assessment systems, they can negatively affect their relationship with their benefactors – the public.

Each one of these predictions presents a challenge, as well as an opportunity, for colleges and universities. Looking toward the future and being aware of changes that may occur in higher education is well worth institutional time and energy. It will guarantee a strong, adaptable academy for the future generations.

The Instructional Shift Demanded By Tech-Savvy Students

InstructionalShift MainIt is no secret that rapid advances in technology are reshaping the learning styles of many students in higher education—a great majority of whom make up that group we refer to as Millennials. These students will be a part of the educational landscape for the next decade, and we can expect the Neomillennials who follow in their footsteps to build on the learning styles the Millennials are now shaping.

Who Are The Millennial & Post-Millennial Learners?

The decade you were born in affects your values, attitudes and choices. It impacts the way that you expect to interact with the world around you, the way you process information and how you decide to act upon that information. For conversation purposes, we generally consider the following decades to have produced a particular type of individual, with distinctly different values, attitudes and choice-making tendencies than the generations before or after them.

The cultural focus and events that occur during each generation help to shape the generation’s characteristics and attitudes. Millennials are shaped by simply being children of the late baby booms and the early GenXers. These individuals are the “Babies on Board” of the early Reagan years. They are the “Have You Hugged Your Child Today” sixth graders of the Clinton years. They are the teens of the Columbine Massacre. They are the young adults of September 11, 2001.

As Searcy Taylor and Nancy MacNeil explained at the 2005 MASFAA Conference, Millennials are shaped by the following concepts:

  • Focus on children and family
  • Scheduled, structured lives
  • Multiculturalism
  • Terrorism
  • Heroism
  • Patriotism
  • Parent Advocacy
  • Globalism

Of course, among the major influences of this generation is the integration of technology into their lives.

How Connected Are Millennial Learners?

Millennials, by and large, have been continually exposed to some form of technology from the time they were born. This generation has watched the advent of the cell-phone go from a portable, hand-held brick to a device that slimy fits in a back pocket and functions as a camera, video recorder, internet mobile device, electronic reading device, phone book and personal day planner. They are accustomed to being surrounded by technology and understand how rapidly this technology advances.

Indeed, Millennials live in a mobile world. They are used to instant gratification: instant research results, instant messages and instant emails. They often utilize the small delays between activities and downloads to facilitate their multi-tasking nature. It is not uncommon or overwhelming for them to accomplish a variety of techno-related tasks simultaneously, such as emailing, texting, web surfing and chatting online.

Research from Educause Quarterly, a leading online education publication, illustrates just how connected Millennials are:


The great varieties of electronic devices used by Millennials facilitate this nearly constant connection. They bring these devices to campus and maintain nearly uninterrupted contact with their world. Certainly these devices and their capabilities impact how these students learn, gather and process information.

An Interesting Paradox

While at first glance, it might seem tempting to suggest that because of their heavy use and dependence on electronic devices Millennials are isolated and more independent.

To the contrary, though, most research actually evidences this generation to be very interdependent and group-focused. Researchers Howe and Strauss discuss this observation in their text Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, describing individuals of this generation to be very team-oriented, citing that they prefer traveling, studying, socializing and participating in activities in groups.

Indeed, Millennials consider the mobile devices they use and the people around them as tools to aid in reaching their goals. This generation is particularly achievement oriented. This means that so long as they feel they are advancing and working toward a desired outcome or destination they are energetic and engaged. However, as soon as they feel advancements toward their goal are moving too slowly, or if they cannot clearly see how an activity impacts their overall objective they quickly become disengaged.

These three characteristics—tech-oriented, group preferment and instant gratification—in particular cause a need for a shift in educational instruction designed to reach today’s millennial students, as well as tomorrow neomillennial students.

What Happens When Students From the Present Meet Teaching Styles From the Past?

More and more college students, US News, reports, are choosing to enroll in college part-time. Millennials, or not, this makes the time commitment today’s students give to campus limited. Certainly most of their time on campus is spent in the classroom.

In order, to make that time productive and meaningful for these students, serious attention and reevaluation must be given to teaching styles that no longer work for contemporary learners.

Just thinking about the way that the space of a traditional college classroom is designed suggests the problem inherent in the meeting of today’s students with yesterday’s instructional styles. Historically, the classroom places the instructor at the head of the class in a fixed role as the expert, the giver of information. Conversely, students are placed in rows before the instructor, expected to follow the information shared verbally or displayed on the board.

While this teaching pedagogy might have once worked for learners who were not accustomed to a near-constant flow of information via mobile devices, or who were not highly attuned and trained in collaborative processes, for Millennial learners, this teaching method is not engaging nor exhilarating. Rather, this teaching style puts them into the position of passive learners.

A Passive Classroom Vs. An Active Classroom

Dr. Norman Herr, Professor of Science Education at California State University, referring to the article “The Two Paradigms of Education and the Peer Review of Teaching,” published in the 49th volume of the NAGT Journal of Geoscience Education, created the following table to illustrate the differences between an active class setting and a passive class setting:



The Student:

  • Students are assumed to enter the course with minds like empty vessels or sponges to be filled with knowledge
  • A lecturing instructor verbalizing information to passive note-taking students
  • Mostly verbal lectures
  • Instructor is the “verbal textbook”
  • Instructor reads definitions to the class
  • Student is a “tape recorder”
  • On exams, students regurgitate what the instructor tells them.
The Student:

  • The instructor strives to create a learning environment in which the student can learn to restructure the new information and their prior knowledge into new knowledge about the content and to practice using it.
  • Students are expected to look up definitions and vocabulary before and after class.
  • The instructor provides examples and illustrations of geologic concepts, processes and features. (IE – visual aids, demonstrations, etc integrated into classroom presentations)
  •  The instructor explains concepts, principles and methods for geologic interpretation
  • Facts and concepts must be tested and used to be learned
  • Students develop skills in constructing and using knowledge with the instructors guidance
  • Various active learning methods, including question/response type of lecture
The Instructor:

  • There is a general expectation that the instructor will have total mastery of the discipline and that any such expert can teach
  • The instructor only needs to know their discipline—they do not have to know how to teach
The Instructor:

  • Is current in knowledge of content and attempts to master the content
  • Develops, learns and employs pedagogical content knowledge (understand HOW to teach each topic)
  • Sets explicit standards for learning and classroom environment
  • Facilitates and guides – but does not provide all of the answers or examples
  • Is a coach and a facilitator (not a verbal textbook or an answer machine)
  • Mentoring means turning students into lifelong learners and for the students majoring in the discipline, it means turning them into apprentices on the way to becoming colleagues
  • Learns how to teach
  • Reflects more on their teaching
Students are expected to:

  • Students are expected to record and absorb knowledge
Students are expected to:

  • Care deeply about their own education
  • Learn to monitor and discuss their own learning
  • Collaborate with other students to discover and construct a framework of knowledge that can be applied to new situations
How such teaching is considered:

  • To be a simple, routine activity
  • An activity in which a professor can compile their notes over a year or two and then repeat the course—year after year with little or no effort
How such teaching is considered:

  • Complex
  • Professors cannot simply compile their course notes over a year or two and then repeat the course year after year with little or no effort. Such teaching is dynamic and the continual revisions to teaching and delivery methods, visual aids, demonstrations etc. are endless.
Lab Courses:

  • Labs taught in this fashions are not true labs
  • A “cookbook” lab gives students step-by-step instructions and the students ape the motions but do not learn the concepts
  • The instructor provides considerable guidance which usually leads to students going through the motions with little understanding or comprehension of concepts or the actual purpose of the activity
Lab Courses:

  • Labs should begin with questions posed by the instructor, the lab manual, the field guide or by the students
  • The objectives are for the students to grapple with the situation before them, using their previous knowledge and their reasoning ability to decide what should be observed, make observations, develop conceptual models to explain the phenomena and test the models.
  • The instructor may provide guidance through a sequence of questions, especially at the beginning of the course, or leave the exercise unguided and give the students ownership of the exercise, which increases their interest in its completion


Certainly the passive education of the past cannot be offered to, and will, in fact, be rejected, by the students of the present. Educator Terry O’Banion explains:

“Colleges and universities will find a generation that will simply not put up with traditional lecture formats and professors who will teach in the ‘great person’ traditions. Rather, the next generation of students will be demanding consumers who expect active engagement in the learning process.”

The new reality facing the educational sector, and upper education in particular, is that millennial students desire to create and contribute to the course content through inductive process and discovery. If they cannot engage in this manner they will feel disconnected and simply disengage, choosing instead to find an alternative stimulating activity to do through class, like surf the internet, update their face book status or play online SIMS.

If classrooms, and the type of instruction they foster, are not designed and created in a way that engages students. They will passively disengage.

Millennial and Neomillennial Learning Styles

With the significant technology-based lifestyle shift that students of this generation experience, the following suggestions from Educause emerge as cross curriculum learning styles:

  • Fluency in multiple media, valuing each for the types of communication, activities, experience, and expressions it empowers.
  • Learning based on collectively seeking, sieving and synthesizing experiences, rather than individually locating and absorbing information from a single best source.
  • Active learning based on experience (real and simulated) that includes frequent opportunities for reflection.
  • Expression through nonlinear, associational webs or representations rather than linear stories – IE authoring a web page to express understanding, rather than a paper.
  • Co-design of learning experiences personalized to individual needs and preferences

To accommodate such learning styles, the classroom space must be reinvented, allowing for more collaborative learning, technology use and adaptable spaces.

Rethinking Classroom Space to Foster Student Engagement

On the American Association of Anatomists website, Dr. Robert Kvavik makes the following observation:

      “Spaces are agents for change. Changed spaced will change practice.”

Rather than try to teach yesterday’s instructors how to reach today’s learners, Kvavik and other researchers argue that simply adapting the learning environment will result in pedagogical teaching shifts and more millennial practices.

To this end, a learning space is needed that reflects the desires of millennial and neomillennial students. According to the AAA website, these include:

  • Immediate access to real data
  • Small group work spaces
  • Access to experts and faculty in the learning space
  • Table space for a variety of IT tools
  • Integrated lab facilities
  • IT highly integrated into all aspects of learning spaces
  • Shared screens
  • Workgroup facilitation

Other considerations include:

  • Comfort, achieved largely through a combination of different kinds of seating that gives individuals choices
  • Changing focal points, typically enabled by multiple display surfaces and mobility of the instructors location or position in the space
  • Visual stimulation, such as color, texture or reference to nature enhance cognitive skills
  • Lighting control

This sort of reinvented learning space endows students and instructors with freedom to adjust their learning environment to meet the unique demands of each subject that is taught as well as the learning styles of the students who fill their classroom. Institutions who are already moving to embrace this shift report positive changes in both student and instructor engagement.

Case Studies

The following examples come from educational institutions around the country who have already instituted some type of flexible, adaptable learning space program. Whether it is referred to as a “Learning Studio,” a “SCALE-UP” or simply as an “adaptive space,” each holds in common the above core principles of ready-available technology and adjustable learning furniture, multi-focal points and stimulating visuals.

Butler Community College

Dr. Gene George, Executive Director of Research and Effectiveness describes the Learning Studio experience that occurred on his campus:

“We had made the development of new, more engaging learning spaces as a strategic priority before joining the Learning Studies project in 2008, but doing so created an opportunity for us to take a systematic critical look at our classrooms. The students and instructors who spent the first semester of the pilot in the studies told us they made the learning experience more comfortable and more engaging, and that led us to ask, if space design and technology can have that kind of impact, then how can we use those tools to intentionally create student engagement?”

The University of Dayton

In Ohio, The University of Dayton continues to evolve the classrooms across their campus into more adaptable spaces. The schools administration strives to make these adaptable spaces more appealing to all five human senses in order to better engage student learning. In response to this program, students report that they feel connected to an environment that is comfortable, visually appealing, flexible and interactive. Further, Dayton reports that this move has made campus students take ownership of the spaces, congregate to work on projects and view their peers and faculty as more approachable.

North Carolina State University

Referred to as the SCALE-UP (Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs), this project has created a learning space that is “highly collaborative, hands-on, computer rich, interactive learning environment in large-enrollment classes.” Following this initiative, NCSU has seen a significant improvement in the students’ ability to solve problems, master learning material and understand concepts. They have also seen a reduction in academic failure rates.

Across the board, institutions investing in creating these types of learning spaces that favor the learning styles and demands of millennial and neomillennial students report the following gained advantages:

  • A flexible environment encourages interaction and teamwork
  • Faculty become more approachable
  • Faculty know their students better
  • Students support each other
  • Technology enhances learning

In particular, many students reported that spaces which made it easy to incorporate technology directly into the students learning experience, via provided laptops or laptop docking stations, made their learning environment more convenient and productive.

VersaTables Solutions 

VersaTables is proud to lead this shift in upper education by providing superior school furniture products that support a technology-oriented, flexible and sustainable learning space. We have helped numerous institutions better prepare their campuses to meet the demands of millennial and neomillennial learners. Such goals are accomplished through the use of products such as:

DVDown View Computer Desks

In the VersaTables Downview Desk the computer monitor and keyboard fit into the recessed laminated desktop giving students a clear view of the instructor while working at an ergonomically correct station. The tempered, anti-glare glass inset makes viewing the computer screen easy. The computer tower is kept out of the way with a built-in, enclosed computer holder. Each table also includes a retractable drawer and an adjustable LCD Monitor arm to provide for further adaptable uses.

RSLDRevolution Laptop Notebook Desk

The VersaTables Revolution Laptop Computer Desk features two unique rotating surface panels designed to hide mounted laptop computers below the surface of the desk when the computers are not in use. By hiding the laptops below the surface, this desk combines the classic simplicity of a writing desk and the elegant functionality of a computer desk into one ingenious unit. The dual rotating panels provide enough space to mount even the largest laptops with ease, while the sliding trays smoothly glide forward for ergonomic comfort while the laptops are in use.

DVPDown View Computer Podium

The ingenious design of the VersaTables Downview Podium provides a lecturer with the advantage of having a large monitor display easily accessible without inhibiting the audience’s view of the speaker. The recessed laminated top surface allows up to a 24″ LCD monitor to be conveniently and ergonomically mounted below a sheet of tempered, anti-glare glass, completely invisible from all audience members. A sturdy slide-out tray provides easy access a keyboard and mouse, while the enclosed storage compartment provides security for the CPU.

These products offer only a glimpse at the great variety of adaptable learning materials our company provides. Visit our online catalog, or contact a representative to discuss how we can help you create more functional and active learning spaces on your campus.

Adaptable Classroom Spaces & Their Impact On Learning

AdaptableClassroomSpaces MainAs the face and world of education changes, the classroom setting is becoming even more complex. Each person in the classroom has individual needs that must be fulfilled in order to have a productive learning environment. But how can one classroom accommodate the needs of several different people simultaneously?

The answer lies in creating adaptable learning environments. Across the country, more and more institutions are recognizing that research shows the classroom environment is just as crucial to a student’s ability to learn, institution loyalty and academic satisfaction as the method of teaching that occurs in the classroom. Indeed, it turns out that space design, and even furniture, has just as much of an impact on student experience as classroom technologies and pedagogies.

In seeking to actively consider the evolving learning styles of today’s students, and anticipate those of tomorrow’s learners as well, thought must be given to the emerging pedagogies, student preferences and physical characteristics driving the design of effective learning spaces today.

The Categories of Classroom Needs

The needs for people in the classroom can be broken down into four distinct categories: fundamental human needs, teaching, learning and engagement. Under each of these categories, there are additional demands that need to be met by the classroom space.

ClassroomNeeds 01Fundamental Human Needs 

Before discussing in depth various pedagogical teaching strategies or classroom design approaches, it is important to remember that any space must always be considered in light of its users. When speaking of classroom space those users comprise students and faculty. In meeting the basic needs of these groups comfort, convenience and products that support learning must be considered.

ClassroomNeeds 02Comfort

Diana Oblinger, President and CEO of Educause Quarterly shared the following antidote in a 2006 article:

According to Indiana University at Purdue University Indianapolis, students reported that they will drop classes for something as menial as uncomfortable seating in the classroom.

This example illustrates the importance of classroom comfort to learners. Comfortable environments allow students to remain focused by limiting distractions and increase a student’s well being. This can be affected by furniture, temperature, lighting, and noise.

Additionally, institutions also face the need to provide larger workspaces for students, as traditional classroom seating is becoming too limited. This is especially true in light of the obesity epidemic the United States faces. For example, research shows that large students may not be able to physically fit into classroom chairs with arm rests or stationary desks with connected seats.

Further, some studies report that individuals, regardless of size,  spend upwards of 9 hours seated daily. For students, a significant portion of this time is spent in a traditional learning classroom. As institutions work to adapt their spaces to contemporary needs and demands, cushioned, ergonomically designed seating should certainly be considered for students and instructors.

ClassroomNeeds 03Convenience

A poorly designed layout for a classroom can hinder the ability to work efficiently. An adaptable classroom allows furniture to be moved to create the most efficient workspace possible. When provided with furniture that promotes flexibility and adaptability, students and instructors will arrange items to best fit their needs.

Educational furniture that is adjustable in nature also provides for healthier work movement and flow, such as sit-stand workflow methodologies.

ClassroomNeeds 04Learning Support

Furniture considerations should consider an abundance of surfaces for writing and supporting computers, books, and instructional tools. The best of these pieces will be flexible in nature, accommodating multiple purposes through a single piece, allowing students in various courses and with various learning styles to adapt the classroom furniture and learning products to their unique needs.

VersaTables’ Revolution Laptop Notebook Desk provides an excellent example of this type of adaptable working space. This unique item features two rotating surface panels designed to hid mounted laptop computers below the surface of the desk when the computers are not in use. Clearly, such a solution provides much more flexibility for the learning needs and support tools of students than the traditional tablet desk.

Once the fundamental needs are met for both the students and the teachers, they are then able to more effectively learn and teach. With these basic needs of comfort, convenience and support in mind, consideration to classroom design should be given in the following areas:

Structural / Architectural Characteristics
Floor play, classroom layout Adaptable to support teaching, open with good movement flow. No obstructed views or acoustic limitations.
Paint Colors should enhance and inspire without distracting. Understanding the psychological affect some colors have can help best determine how to create a good workspace.
Flooring Durable and complimentary to other color schemes
Lighting Natural light should be used where possible. Lighting should be appropriate to group and individual activities. It should be adequate to prevent eye strain and should be able to easily be turned on and off for multimedia use.
Furniture and Equipment Characteristics
Tables Ergonomically designed with ample workspace to support multiple users. Tables should be easy to move and adjust. Tables that support technology for users, such as VersaTables’ Downview Conference Table, are ideal for this purpose.
Chair, Side Chair Ergonomic, flexible, comfortable and easy to move and adjust
Bench Seating Ergonomic, flexible, comfortable and easy to move and adjust
Stools Supports socializing and completing work at a work surface. Should be easy to move and adjust.
Podiums and Lecterns Ergonomic and adjustable. Supportive of technology. Provide a clear view of students to instructor and instructor to students.
Filing and Storage Units Sufficient space to be useful. Easy to move, allowing for adjustable work space and classroom order.
Teaching Accessories Characteristics
Mobile Marker Board Simple to write on, clean, view, move and store
Mounted White Board Simple to write on, clean and view
Technological Support Characteristics
Embedded Technology Placement Wherever possible, utilize furniture with rotating panels that mount computers or laptops, or use down-view desks that encases computer screens below the working surface.
Cables and Wiring Should be hidden and well managed. Cable management products should be utilized when needed.
Classroom Training Characteristics
Comfort, Efficiency and Productivity Instructors and students should participate in proactive training programs that inform and educate about the ergonomic and adaptable features of their classroom.
Millennial and Neomillennial Learning Styles Administrators and instructors should be educated about the learning styles of contemporary students and the way that the classroom space enhances or hinders those learning styles.

ClassroomNeeds 05Teaching

As millennial and neomillenial learners make their way into college classrooms their unique learning styles demand a dramatic shift in instructional style and support. This shift focuses educators toward a learner-centered approach, and demands adaptable and flexible classroom spaces.

In this emerging learning culture, the characteristics of good teaching and pedagogy are continually being redefined, but most observations reflect the following attributes:

  • An effective teacher utilizes pedagogy, classroom tools, and their environment to effectively teach students.
  • A flexible classroom is vital for effective teaching strategies.
  • Technology is also an important part of the learning environment. Teachers should have moveable technology in the classroom that it does not dominate the classroom—it can be used when necessary and stored when not.

Using Butler Community College outside of Wichita, Kansas as a research model, Educause Quarterly authors Gene George, Tom Erwin and Briony Barnes evaluated students’ perceptions of instructional teaching methods in both traditional classrooms (lectern and white board positioned in the front of the classroom facing rows of desks) compared to those in more adaptable learning spaces. Their findings are detailed below:

“In [a] survey, students were asked to rank selected teaching styles according to their own preferences. We collected data on these rankings in both *pre and post occupancy surveys to see if changes in the learning spaces could influence student preferences in how instructors teach…”

Survey question: Please rank the following items 1—4, with 1 being your most preferred way of learning and 4 being your least preferred way of learning.
TeachingS tyles
*Pre and Post occupancy refers to the research method of surveying students in traditional classroom settings and surveying them after those settings were shifted to more adaptable spaces.

Additionally, because a main component of most collegiate institutions is to adequately prepare graduating students as productive and competitive members of the workforce, adaptable learning spaces become even more important. These spaces prompt learners to engage in their education, as opposed to passively memorizing facts from lectures. This helps students develop real world problems solving skills and capabilities.

ClassroomNeeds 06Learning 

If real world skills like those described above are crucial to the contemporary workplace, and if educators are going to foster these skills in the learning environment, understanding how individuals learn and how adaptable workspaces can best facilitate that learning is important.

Adaptive learning paces facilitate two important active forms of learning: cooperative and collaborative. In “Teaching, Learning and Millennial Students” written by education expert Maureen E. Wilson, read that

“discussion methods are superior to lectures in student retention of information after the end of a course; transfer of knowledge to new situations; development of problem solving, thinking, or attitude change; and motivation for further learning…In contrast to listening to lectures, memorizing information and repeating it on exams, students reap greater benefits when they engage with material, relate it to their experiences, and apply it to their lives…the passive lecture-discussion format so common for undergraduate students is contrary to most principles for promoting optimal student learning.”

Experts also make the following observations about the learning needs of today’s students:

  • Technology is being integrated into the learning space more and more rapidly. In order to accommodate this change, traditional classroom setup is proving to be inefficient.
  • As future technology is introduced, the classroom setup will need to change again to accommodate for that change. In preparation for the future change of classrooms, it is important to choose easily adaptable furniture to be prepared for that change.
  • Learning pedagogies are moving towards active learning strategies and thus require an environment in which students and teachers can both become engaged.

While there is certainly no simple, one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to facilitating the best learning practices for contemporary and future students, administrators cannot escape the fact that the learning spaces of their institutions do affect the learning process. And that learning process is key to generating increased student involvement and engagement.

ClassroomNeeds 07Engagement

One of the leading variables impacting whether or not students will be successful on any given college campus is their level of engagement. Indeed, according to the authors of Student Success in College: Creating Conditions That Matter, the traditional indicators of student success that administrators give the most attention to fostering are: graduation rates, student retention and student engagement.

Acknowledging and understanding the following observations about student engagement on today’s college campuses can help to understand how learning space impacts this important variable: 

  • With active learning strategies there comes higher reliance on communication, so an environment in which students and teachers can work in a collaboratively communicative environment works best. To do this, they need to be able to engage with their environment and with one another.
  • Furniture that allows students and teachers to see each other easily adds to the collaborative environment.
  • Moveable furniture allows students to gather into groups for collaboration and group activities.
  • Students are more likely to engage if the environment is comfortable enough for collaborative, engaged learning.

In fulfilling these four categories—fundamental human needs, teaching, learning and engaging—students and teachers will not only be improving their classroom environment, but they will also be improving their ability to learn and grown in these environments. This understanding also provides a foundation for experimentation with learning spaces, allowing institutions to determine what kinds of adaptable spaces work best for their particular student bodies. This type of experimentation sets the foundation for evidenced-based design of future campus buildings and renovation of existing spaces, potentially saving an institution millions of dollars while best supporting the students in the classroom.

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