Makerspaces a growing trend, but will they deliver?

Are makerspaces worth the effort or just another higher ed fad?

Makerspaces—physical spaces that create communities for collaboration, skill building, and equipment sharing—are multiplying on campuses across the country. These spaces give students hands-on, collaborative, and entrepreneurial experiences that complement classroom instruction.

Carol Pepper-Kittredge, statewide director of the California Community College (CCC) Maker Initiative, describes makerspaces as “centers for innovation,” in which students learn and test new skills. “Faculty can explore new ways of teaching using new technology and incorporating inter-disciplinary experiences into their courses,” says Pepper-Kittredge. “In makerspaces, students can explore in a deeper way where their true passions and interests lie and uncover future career paths.”

Dale Dougherty, founder and chief executive officer of Maker Media and chair of the CCC Maker Advisory Committee, says that makerspaces flip traditional learning by putting practice before theory. “What excites me about learning in makerspaces is that this experiential hands-on learning gives us feedback that allows us to be good learners. It’s not so much about aptitude as it is effort and interest. I hope students realize that they can develop what they are capable of doing, and while it might be hard, they can do it,” he says.

A starter’s guide
To help more colleges develop their own makerspaces, the CCC Maker Initiative, which is housed at Sierra College in Rocklin, Calif., has published a free startup guide. The guide was created after tracking the first year of experience of 34 colleges in creating makerspaces on their campuses and describes the steps to establish makerspaces, including assessing needs of the particular college community, charting a campus’ specific environment, analyzing that data, and piloting faculty and student engagement.

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