University Business October 2017 - 62

PROFESSIONAL OPINION

Bridging the gap between
campus and workplace
Why smart classroom design matters
By Paul Viccica and Lois Goodell

T

he criteria employers use to
evaluate recent college graduates for jobs in the real world
of today have changed dramatically. The
majority of college classrooms have not
kept pace with or do not sufficiently prepare students for the evolving demands
of the workplace environment-and
employers are noticing.
The design elements of the college
classroom and all learning environments
today play a critical role in how our society grooms future talent for success.
The waning traditional model
Picture a traditional lecture hall setting: students sitting in rows, backs to
their peers and facing a professor who
instructs by standing at a podium. The
flow of information is a singular channel, with only the occasional question
disrupting the one-way communication
between professor and student. This
model offers little support for higherlevel thinking, experiential learning or
collaboration, resulting in a disparity between the skills gained in the classroom
and the skills sought by employers.
A one-way, hierarchical flow of
communication no longer dominates
the modern workplace. Companies are
building collaborative hubs, "touchdown" spaces and social cafes-new
productivity zones that strike a balance
between isolation and collaboration, and
between social interaction and work-

UBmag.me/workplace

62 | October 2017

place focus. To catalyze team-building
and active problem-solving organically,
work environments have evolved to be
flexible, adaptive and people-focused.

To organically catalyze
team-building and
problem-solving, work
environments have evolved
to be flexible, adaptive and
people-focused.
Employers are placing less importance on rote skills in science, foreign
language and history, and are more
interested in prospective employees that
have honed 21st century skills such
as critical and creative thinking and
problem-solving. Only through imaginative classroom design can universities
support these important learning and
teaching methods, and respond to this
shift in employer expectations.
Reimagining learning spaces
The most successful classrooms establish
multifunctional learning spaces that
support peer-to-peer and individual
problem-solving activities.
Classrooms that activate experiential
and project-based learning approaches
reflect the modern workplace by providing social and quiet work spaces, by
offering breakout seating, and by creating technical stations where students
can collaborate, focus independently
and work technically, as they would in
an office setting.

Shape, configuration and furnishings-as well as the integration of technology-must have a unifying quality
that fosters interpersonal communication, openness and adaptability. This
will require dramatic changes.
Take, for instance, classroom size. As
classrooms seek a more fluid, potentially
expansive quality, universities must
consider larger footprints. For example,
a collaborative classroom requires more
square footage per student than does a
traditional tiered classroom. Cuttingedge spaces (such as an innovation lab or
makerspace) require even more square
footage per student.
Collaborative classrooms and innovation labs actually cost less per square
foot than do traditional rooms when
evaluating system, room build-out,
exterior envelope and furniture costs.
Colleges can invest in students'
future success by investing in space.
Many institutions, such as Harvard
University, Babson College and Northeastern University, are already adapting
to the modern learning environment by
offering these innovation labs, collaborative classrooms and makerspaces.
Architects and designers have an
important role to play when it comes to
aligning learning outcomes with the requirements of the workplace. The design
of more imaginative classrooms-where
the student is the focal point-helps
unite the goals of both academia and
today's employers and bolster students'
post-graduate success.
Paul Viccica and Lois Goodell are principals
with the CBT architectural firm.
www.universitybusiness.com


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of University Business October 2017

University Business October 2017 - Cover1
University Business October 2017 - Cover2
University Business October 2017 - 1
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