Interactive learning spaces new campus must-have

Universities invest in innovative furniture, space design concepts for building “soft skills”

Say goodbye to lecture halls like this one.

According to innovative universities, it’s not the mobile devices and software that are key to building the “soft skills” so valued by today’s workforce—it’s the interactive learning spaces part of building design.

And it’s a transformative trend that more universities across the country are seeking to implement in traditional classroom environments; the idea behind the redesign being that interactive learning spaces promote discussion and interaction between students and the lecturer or professor.

According to Jason Meneely, an associate professor of interior design at the University of Florida, today’s students are driving the trend, with many seeking a more interactive learning environment instead of the traditional lecture hall model that universities often rely on.

“It’s really about solving problems,” said Meneely. “A lot of the soft skills students learn are what companies look for. How to work collaboratively and creatively, and remain comfortable even when they do not have all of the answers, is important.”

Part of redesigning the space, explained Meneely, is how the furniture in the room is arranged, which directly affects how students learn. Traditional lecture halls do not facilitate discussion between students well, which in turn can cause a class to become one-sided with only the professor contributing ideas to the classroom, he said.

Furniture companies, such as Steelcase and KI, are already starting to partner with universities to change the way the typical college classroom looks. The goal isn’t to find a way to pack more students into a class, but to figure out a way to make the education experience more interactive.

(Next page: How to design interactive spaces; furniture of the future)