Every university is concerned for student welfare and providing an environment that is conducive to educational success, establishing lifelong friendships, developing a love of learning and opening doors to future careers. The belief is that campus planning and design will support and enhance the student experience.
The campus environment is viewed as a matrix of:
- Formal learning spaces (classrooms)
- Informal learning spaces
- Social spaces; and
- Online environment
The aim is to support the student experience by providing a variety of physical spaces to meet a plethora of student requirements. The contention is that providing places where students can linger longer on campus will contribute to an engaging and meaningful student experience: a sticky campus.
In response to the focus on student experience universities have increasingly provided informal and social learning spaces, distributed across campus and often located adjacent to formal classroom spaces. This enables students to synergistically move from informal to formal spaces and back to informal spaces, meaning that engagement can continue beyond the constraints of access to timetabled spaces.
Social spaces often provide respite from the focus on learning but our understanding of student behaviour is that they are constantly blurring the boundaries between socialising and learning. They like to study with and alongside peers, oscillating between focused learning activities balanced with having fun and relaxing. Therefore, social spaces are designed as ‘third spaces’ – places in between the concept of formal and informal learning in which learning can still occur.
A Spectrum of Learning Spaces
The concept of a spectrum of learning spaces has been derived from an understanding of the various learning activities that students regularly undertake on campus. By providing the types of amenity that students need and enjoy occupying, students naturally stay on campus longer and demonstrate the ‘sticky campus’ ethos.
- Quiet individual study: Lounge, booth or workstation where individuals can undertake quiet, focused study, from reading a book to writing an essay.
- Laptop bench: Akin to a kitchen table, the laptop bench is a quick point of contact to check email or undertake short tasks. Students can work independently or side-by-side.
- Open collaborative: A generous table without walls or a semi-open booth. Either way, this type of setting enables small groups to get together to discuss or work on group projects.
- Enclosed group work: A focused space that is more likely to have access to digital screens. Small groups can work together and share or create content on the digital screen. Some rooms may be lockable enabling longer duration of activities.
- Analogue v digital: Students often bring their own devices but universities are still experiencing demand for providing desktop computers on campus. We usually design spaces to enable BYOD or desktop PCs, to ensure the ultimate flexibility. We recognise that students also need access to writeable surfaces and pinboards, for different types of analogue activities.
- Dark v light: While access to natural light is a well-documented asset to any learning environment, there are times when access to dark spaces is also warranted. Gaming, coding and other multimedia activities may be enhanced by spaces that can be darkened.
Flinders University Student Hub
Flinders University Student Hub incorporates a spectrum of informal learning spaces for a wide variety of settings required for students. This spectrum incorporates independent and group lounges, quiet independent study spaces, open and enclosed group study spaces, places to do short-term laptop-based work and more. Noisy spaces were separated from quiet spaces to ensure maximum efficiency and minimal disruptions. These spaces have proven to be very popular with students who occupy them consistently from early in the morning through to the evening.