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Design to appeal to the "connected" generation of students

While officials at almost every higher education
institution already understand that making investments in signature buildings is a time-honored way to communicate the promise and excitement of an education at that particular university or college, there are ways to make smaller, strategic investments in both new and existing facilities. 

The goals are to enhance the perceived value of an institution’s offerings versus the competition’s, including online alternatives, and to provide educational environments that connect in meaningful ways to today’s and future student populations, including faculty and staff. Of course, a grand architectural gesture is still valued, but this “connected” generation will truly identify with the smaller, day-today enhancements. And these small enhancements will cause less stress to facility budgets.

Here are some design strategies colleges and
universities can utilize to authentically reach this
“connected” generation of students — an evolving
demographic with limited attention spans raised in
an always-on, connected world dominated by social media and empowered by BYOD (“bring your own device”) technology.

1) Keep the students and staff on campus longer.

It is typical for students to leave campus
for the local coffee shop between and after classes, as they perceive the typical educational building as a place where they have to go, not a location where they want to go.

Each educational facility should minimally provide
access to a fast (wireless) Internet, numerous
power outlets, a varied selection of comfy chairs,
and convenient places to grab a good cup of coffee and a snack. While this seems simple, it requires making investments and allocations in space outside the standard classrooms and offices.

Hallways should be reimagined as flex spaces, lounges, breakout spaces, intimate nooks, and even places for small classes. Providing different environments in close proximity can offer students and faculty opportunities to support different types of activities

depending on the task at hand or even one’s mood. When possible, access to outdoor spaces complete with seating and tables should be provided.

The return on investment is a higher level of satisfaction among students and faculty, who will want to remain in the buildings longer. This not only creates opportunities for educational interactions outside of class, but also makes students feel more at home, since they can find their spot to hang out in, study, socialize, or even catch a quick nap (rather than in class).

2) Provide furniture designed to engage.
Furniture that provides opportunities for physical movement, personal expression and socialization (both inside and outside the classroom) facilitates improved learning outcomes through elevated student energy levels by keeping minds engaged.

At a minimum, lounge chairs that can accommodate numerous positions, provide a surface for writing or accommodating a tablet/laptop, have integrated or adjacent electrical/USB ports for power, and can be easily moved so students can work in collaborative groups or on their own need to be provided. Specialty chairs can be sprinkled into the mix, allowing students to spin, move and play. These challenge students to be in the “present,” requiring them to disconnect from their “always-connected” mind-sets, putting aside their electronic devices if only for a few minutes.

In lounge and gathering areas, tables with surrounding stools can act as impromptu landing zones and provide surfaces or tear-off paper tops to provide good old “analog” writing and drawing opportunities for small groups to engage with each other sans technology. Ironically, students typically find these “old school” approaches to be fresh and cool since the digital versions are almost commonplace to them....

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