Article Current Trends in Higher Education

The world of education is changing at an ever-increasing rate, with no signs of slowing down. Technology, generational influences, and industry research are constantly driving new trends that manifest in building and design decisions, as well as the approach to teaching the next generation of the workforce.

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Armstrong Flooring partnered with research firm WGSN to identify how and why trends are changing in education.  Here are four trends impacting higher education design. To see how these trends are influencing K-12 education, read our article here.

Prioritizing Health & Wellness

Research clearly shows the benefit of biophilic design, the practice of incorporating nature into interior design. Being implemented widely across the education spectrum, higher education is prioritizing natural light and access to the outdoors by designing glass exterior buildings.

In addition to biophilic design and its benefits, many colleges and universities are focusing efforts on physical health and wellbeing. “Nap Nooks” are becoming more common as a soothing space designed for mental rejuvenation, where students can catch up on sleep or improve “digital wellness” by putting down phones, tablets, and laptops for a period of time. In a culture with access to the connected world literally at their fingertips, students are finding the benefits of a well-designed area to digitally disconnect.

Millennials and Generation Z are passionately focused on sustainable and earth-friendly transportation methods, which has led to more bikes on campus and ride-sharing — even interstate ride-sharing to and from campus. Surfaces — both indoor and outdoor — made with sustainable products will likely become increasingly important to these, and future generations.

Designing for the Next Stage

For students in higher education, it’s essentially the final stage before reaching the “real world,” and design is beginning to reflect that. The concrete block dorm room is becoming a thing of the past, and in its place are units designed with focus group feedback in mind: apartment-like settings with bathroom privacy, and implementing more gathering spaces.

Design influencers are also now becoming decision makers, with elite coaches being given the authority to incorporate what they feel is needed for team development and bonding, like entertainment areas, state-of-the-art analysis rooms, and luxury lounges. Colleges and universities are constantly evolving how to best prepare students for professional life in their 20s, 30s, and beyond, and designing for those types of spaces will continue to evolve as well.

Ever-Developing Technology

Technology continues to impact higher education at a rapid pace, and is especially important because of its place as the “final stage before the real world.” How technology influences the workplace filters down to higher education, whether it be in the classroom or across campus in general. Virtual reality is revolutionizing “hands-on” learning and the opportunities students have to be immersed in a professional setting.

In growing instances, the traditional library is getting a makeover — what used to be walls of physical books is now becoming digitized. Out with the quiet space, and in with a collaborative area that features coffee shops and food options. And what better area for technology integration than food on college campuses — deliveries by robots is already being implemented, and the flexible design to accompany these technological changes will be vital.

Creating Flexible Spaces

The implementation of Student Hubs, or Innovation Hubs, is popping up more and more often across the higher education landscape. These spaces are both academic and non-academic, but possess a common theme — bringing students together in one space. The design for each of these spaces is crucial, whether it’s encouraging academic collaboration or social togetherness to break the habits of digital isolation despite being surrounded by people.

Active learning classrooms, and their flexibility to be manipulated between static and active learning sessions, provides an enhanced level of learning while making the existing space as efficient, and useful, as possible.

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