Universities are reinventing their campuses and embracing technology to make them more attractive, with the ultimate goal of creating unique learning experiences, so that students get something more than through online education. Here are a few examples from around the globe.
Leading by example …
The modern workspace owes a lot to the university campus: social, fluid and agile. But, in return, educational institutions are taking lessons from corporates too.
At Northern Beaches Christian School in Sydney, there are no restrictions on where students can go: they are entrusted to develop their own learning space. According to architect WMK, it’s “not so much studying as knowledge cross-pollination in a vibrant, learning lifestyle … with teachers as mentors, experts and guides”.
Lee High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana opened a US$54.7m campus in 2016, designed by DLR Group and GraceHebert Architects to resemble a Silicon Valley start-up, offering a “personalized, customizable learning experience”. Its spaces are divided by floor-to-ceiling glass walls and can be configured in different ways.
Missouri Innovation Campus is described as “academia meets Google”. Some 1,800 students aged 16-30 will learn alongside each other on a workplace-like campus, designed by DLR Group and Gould Evans. Learning and teaching will happen everywhere, and all spaces will be used by all disciplines and programmes.
Five classes in one room at Australia’s first superlab
The award-winning X-LAB at the University of Sydney is Australia’s first superlab. It seats 240 and is designed to make the greatest use of multimedia while minimizing distraction. It can accommodate both large second-year classes and smaller, more specialized groups, with up to five different classes taking place simultaneously.
There are eight demonstrator stations throughout the lab, and academics use a touchscreen to push up to three different HD video streams to student computers, or pull content from one group to show to the class. Even though the benches are only 1.5m apart, adjacent students may be listening to completely different things. So WSP’s audio design effectively creates smaller, acoustically isolated areas within an open-plan space, using ultra-directional speaker systems.
The university had projected that it would need five extra teaching labs by 2020, or 9,700ft2 of additional space. Building the superlab saved more than 1,000ft2, as well as the need for walls and corridors between separate spaces, and consolidated staffing requirements too.
Life on the digital campus
At Nanyang Technical University in Singapore, Heatherwick Studio has rethought the university building for the information age. Here’s how NTU envisages a typical day: “Engineering freshman Nicholas Lim is raring to go for his tutorial at the Learning Hub, where he’s making a presentation on how the study of astronomy has transformed in the last century. He stops by the Library Outpost to retrieve his reserved book using an automated book dispensing machine that scans his matriculation card. Then he goes for a quick one-to-one coaching session at the Communication Cube to polish his presentation skills before his tutorial. During his class, he uses his handheld tablet to take an individual quiz based on the previously assigned readings. He then discusses his own answers on the quiz with his classmates, and his professor helps to clarify their ideas. After his class, Nicholas heads off for lunch at the student-run cafe downstairs with his friends, before joining a film screening also attended by his peers from the arts and business schools …”
Carry on campus
HLM Architects and WSP have designed a new Learning and Teaching Hub for the University of Glasgow, the first phase of an ambitious expansion programme. It’s about placemaking and a better student experience: the new building opens up links across campus and with the community and aims to offer high standards of wellbeing.