Mixed-use Learning Zones for Millennials: A Typology for Bridging Learning from the Academe to the Profession
Research Sponsored by the American Society of Interior Designers
The role of interior design in higher education has perhaps never been more important than it is today. In fact, learning space designs rose to the fore in the 2017 “Key Issues in Teaching and Learning” paper reporting survey findings from 900+ affiliates in higher education. New approaches to pedagogy and a generation of students who expect a less didactic and non-hierarchical learning experience have compelled administrators to rethink their facilities. Recent directions include “mixed-use” spaces supporting a wider spectrum of student-based engagement. These understudied spaces are intended to foster informal interaction, sparking interaction between students, faculty and others while helping foster a sense of community. Yet, to date there has not been an in-depth examination of the efficacy of mixed-used learning zones on campus.
This research employed a mixed-methods, multi-case study approach and involved:
1) surveying a national online community of millennials
2) conducting on-site intercept surveys with students enrolled in undergraduate, graduate and professional studies; 3) on-site behavior mapping of this range of students in five campus communities
4) communicating overarching themes through visual and interview-based narrative inquiry.
Insights led to the development of a “Mixed-Use Learning Environments Typology” that captures the impact of the transformation in higher education. While the millennials are the first generation of digital natives, it was notable that they also insist on face-to-face and community connectivity in their learning environments. Interior designers can draw on this typology and its attendant insights to contribute to a transformed campus for the millennial era and beyond.
Sheila J. Bosch, PhD, EDAC, LEED AP
Department of Interior Design
College of Design, Construction and Planning
University of Florida
I also discovered that millennial students seem to prefer less formal learning environments where the traditional teacher–student hierarchy is unrecognizable. As an instructor standing in front of a typical college classroom, it is clear to all that this classroom has been designed more for me than for the students. I “own” the space and students are passive learners. But, this is changing as technology-infused active learning classrooms are being developed. In these classrooms, students often work in groups and learn from one another, as well as the instructor, using technology to share information in real time. But even the active learning classroom sits vacant when there are no formally scheduled classes occurring in them, leaving valuable real estate unused while students cram into commons spaces on campus to study or work on group projects.