THE FUTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION

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Higher education is undergoing substantial changes in the ways students are receiving their education, and these changes have a direct impact on the design and construction of new and renovated teaching facilities. For example, the growing popularity of online classes and distance learning can reduce the size of lecture halls and increase the use of video technology in the classroom. Higher Education students are now encouraged to collaborate on projects in small groups, which requires numerous gathering spaces where discussion and interaction can take place inside classroom buildings. At many colleges and universities, the overall focus has shifted from teaching to learning environments.

In response, many college and university campus planners are reconfiguring their buildings to create flexible spaces and multi-purpose facilities. The new Brouder Science Center at Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri provides an excellent example of this trend. The west wing of this 49,862 square foot science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) building houses the school’s nursing program and includes non-traditional classrooms with flexible seating and technology such as data projectors and SMART boards. The nursing simulation room allows hands-on training with students using SimMan, a simulated patient.

The north wing houses five general laboratories and eight advanced labs for the physical and biological sciences department, plus the forensic science program. These labs were built to be interchangeable in response to future curriculum and learning technology changes. Both wings include brightly lit gathering areas for students to comfortably collaborate.

Fontbonne University’s recently completed Science Center is also a STEM facility and mirrors this flexible facilities approach. This renovated building includes 32,448 square feet of lab space for biology, chemistry, physics and anatomy that can be converted to other uses as the situation dictates. The new addition includes a student lounge with numerous small group gathering spaces and a greenhouse.

At both higher education facilities, the focus is on building better learning environments.