Change drives progress: that’s a constant. Similarly, trends in the use of technology in higher education influence and change educational methodologies on university and college campuses. The release in February of the New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Report, entitled “2015 Higher Education Edition,” identifies six key trends that reflect the way higher education uses technology to advance student learning and research. One of those key factors is “redesigning learning spaces.”
This has important implications for institutions of higher education that choose to remain relevant in a dynamic field.
“Redesigning Learning Spaces”
“Redesigning learning spaces” appears in the Horizon Report as one of two short-term trends that accelerate how higher education is adopting educational technology. So immediate is this movement, that the report specifies the time frame of impact as the next one to two years. Institutions are feeling the need to redesign learning spaces immediately.
According to the report, the goals of promoting active learning and fostering collaboration will drive ed tech adoption in the short-term. Evaluating the way learning spaces are best designed and equipped is an immediate priority for institutions of higher education. It supports their goal to advance among their constituents the ability to teamwork.
Formal and Informal Learning Spaces
The shift in reconfigured learning spaces affects the entire institutional plant and includes two types of gathering spaces. Not surprisingly, the design of formal learning spaces has been and continues to remain important. New trends suggest larger classroom spaces that accommodate active and flexible learning, multiple electronic devices, and project-based interactions.
In addition to the formal learning spaces, the report cites the growth in re-imagining informal learning spaces, in keeping with a student-centered approach to education. This may mean, for instance, designing public spaces such as lobbies and hallways as places where students can both congregate and accomplish academic work. Re-imagined informal spaces can “often feature comfortable furniture, power outlets for charging mobile devices and LCD monitors for connecting laptops,” says the report.
The New Media Consortium (MNC) Horizon Report > 2015 Higher Education Edition, available as a free download, cites specific features that characterize redesigned learning spaces:
Wireless bandwidth is being upgraded in institutions to create “smart rooms” that support web conferencing and other methods of remote, collaborative communication. Large displays and screens are being installed to enable collaboration on digital projects and informal presentations. As higher education continues to move away from traditional lecture-based programming and to more hands-on scenarios, university classrooms will start to resemble real-world work and social environments that facilitate organic interactions and cross-disciplinary problem solving.
The identified short-term goals pave the pathway toward implementation of mid-term and long-range goals. The report also identifies six significant challenges and six important developments in educational technology.