Change. It’s an essential part of any educational institution—and it should be. To succeed today, higher ed must thoughtfully and continually evolve to stay ahead of the opportunities technology now affords. Just as importantly, colleges must anticipate the changing needs of students and their eventual employers. With each of these critical assessments, however, come logistical hurdles and financial burdens.
Now new thinking in flexible learning and collaborative campus spaces, as well as smart re-use of space, is helping institutions become flexible and remain change-ready, effectively creating more efficient teaching and better, more cost-effective, long-range development planning.
So what, then, are some key principles in flexible use planning for the teaching environments of tomorrow?
1. Focus on student needs first
At Dunwoody College in Minneapolis, we’ve seen more change than most. When you’ve been around for a more than a century you learn—and re-learn—about evolving. Over the decades we’ve grown from one of the country’s earliest dedicated technical-education institutions to one that offers a Bachelor of Architecture, and a School of Engineering with four-year engineering degrees, in addition to a core set of offerings.
That evolution has taught us to focus on the needs of the students. How will they be taught? What new cutting-edge technologies are available? Which learning environments and physical spaces on our campus provide the optimal conditions for their success? These and other questions were part of our planning process before we embarked on phase one of a multi-year renovation that is reshaping the campus experience for our students.
2. Re-use and multi-use spaces to manage initial costs
Not every physical change to a campus means building new facilities from the ground up. The best higher-ed architecture partners now seek opportunities to re-imagine current square footage that is underutilized or serving an outdated function. In our case, that meant transforming 12,000 square feet of dormant gymnasium space first built in the 1920s and giving it new life as an open, two-story collaborative Learning Commons and Welcome Center, with double the square feet. Re-use can save thousands in construction costs and re-optimize the functional footprint of your existing campus structure for more modern day needs.