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Studies have show that collaborative teaching and working actually enhances student learning. The universities of today are turning to design solution companies like Ozarch to support higher education collaborative design solutions. Campus spaces, from the classroom to the student lounge and the dorm rooms, need to be able to integrate people, space, design and technology within an environment. Here are five ways to do so:

Involve Your Faculty


If you’re redesigning a dorm room or constructing new spaces for students, you should be including them in your design process. After all, it’s them who will live in these areas and need to enjoy them, too. This will also help them feel more valued in your school community.

This is exactly what the University of Central Oklahoma did when they planned for their $8.5 million “Center for Transformative Learning.” They formed a “Transformative Learning Task Force” and a dozen faculty members researched technology’s influence on design and collaborative environments to come up with ideas for the new space.

Similarly, the University of Connecticut’s Alex Roe said that, “We leaned heavily on the committee [during the development of the university’s new Classroom Building] and relied on it to help us design the classrooms and to figure out how technology would be integrated into the space.”

Your staff will think of things that many design studios and upper level administrators will not. They also understand what students are looking for out of their teaching environments, and can better translate those wants into something feasible.


Incorporate Technology

Collaborative learning spaces are designed to engage students in real-time problem solving. When creating new spaces, consider the technology that can transform an ordinary space into a collaborative one. In addition to the free collaborative software tools, you’ll also need to consider technology that your staff can incorporate into the classroom without having to go through a high learning curve to adjust.

Other tech to consider include huddleboards, work cluster desks with outlets, extra monitors for laptop users, and laser print stations. And while technology can be major contributors to collaborative spaces, it’s also important to throw in good old-fashioned non-tech equipment that everyone is familiar with such as dry erase boards.


Invest In Versatile Furniture for Dorms

Furniture design are major contributors to collaborative spaces. For example, adding in tables and chairs that have wheels make it easy for students and teachers to reposition them depending on their needs. These versatile options help ignite collaboration among those groups.

If you plan on refiguring the room to suit different events, you’ll need furniture that’s lightweight and can be easily stored or stowed away. Depending on the company, you may be able to request samples from suppliers to test comfort and functionality in a space. This includes modular desks or high top tables with stools for students who want the option to stand or sit. Lounge seating also creates a space for informal dialogue, so you might consider creating a separate lounge area in the space for a different type of collaboration. Check out these collaborative work ideas for some inspiration.


Acknowledge Sound Issues

One of the biggest problems with designing collaborative spaces is that noise from one work cluster could interrupt another. Not all collaborative working requires loud talking, and not all group sizes are created equal. This means that different groups could be troublesome for other groups. To alleviate that, it’s important to consider unique design solutions that address these sound issues.

Hardwood floors may look better and be easier to clean, but carpeted floors absorb sound much more effectively. If it’s in the budget, removeable walls are also a good cure. These wall portions create multipurpose workstations, and allow students to cordone certain areas, giving them more privacy, laser focus on the task(s) at hand, and an office-like environment. Ceiling sound baffles are structures that contain sound, making them another option that helps lessen the noise in a space.


Learn From The Best

By taking a look at how other campuses are addressing the need to implement collaborative learning spaces and classrooms, you can better understand what you’re looking for out of your own design. For example, North Carolina State University’s Scale Up space is comprised of several round tables outfitted with a cord outlet pod and comfortable ergonomic chairs. Additionally, the Stanford Design School has multipurpose studios as opposed to traditional classrooms to inspire creativity and collaboration. These flexible spaces can create several different environments depending on student and faculty needs. To achieve this, they use whiteboards tracked to the ceiling and wheelable furniture.

Before setting out to work on your own space, write down a list of goals you hope to achieve with the space and features you want it to have. Try to incorporate ways to track how the new space improves student learning and happiness through things like surveys or through the analysis of final grades.


Image: Siena Custom Builders, Inc. Photo by Picture Perfect House.


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