Article Key Disruptors in the Education Industry

In 2020, it’s been the year of disruption — and the education industry is one that’s been heavily affected. Disruption comes in many ways, including ever-changing trends amid generational preferences and ideas. New ways to teach and interact with students drive change in how spaces are designed, and how the next generation is educated.


Armstrong Flooring continues its partnership with research firm WGSN to identify how and why disruptions are impacting education. Here are four ideas to consider that will disrupt and change the education industry. To read our original trend pieces, click here for K-12 and higher education.

Children are spending less and less time outdoors. With excessive screen time and a lack of physical activity becoming a major concern for Generation Alpha (born 2010-2025), young parents are encouraging their kids to play outdoors and reconnect with nature. Active adventurers are often immersed in stress-free environments, engaging in child-led outdoor play that can foster risk-taking and independence. It can also future-proof mental health — a 2019 study from Aarhus University revealed that children who spend more time in nature have up to a 55% lower risk of developing psychiatric disorders as an adult.

This push to reconnect with nature, coupled with the positive impact of outdoor learning, will see more and more schools opt to implement open air and the outdoors in favor of a traditional classroom. We’ve already seen elements of this design at the Katherine Johnson Technology Magnet Academy, where courtyards are designed centrally in the school, and exterior rooms have garage doors for easy access to the outdoors. And where learning must remain indoors, hardwood visuals are implemented to achieve biophilic design.

More schools will continue this design trend, where education spaces prioritize freedom and fun as a design concept, and not just as a nice-to-have.

Next Generation Schools
Generation Z (born between 1996-2010) are entering university with progressive ideals, most notably that 75% of the generation believe there are other ways of attaining an education than by going to college. To respond to this generation that is demanding a flexible learning environment that’s more tailored to what they want, education spaces will need to be adaptable, flexible, and immerse students in learning experiences.

Take the East Baton Rouge Career and Technology Education Center, for example. Its focus on a vocational curriculum allows students in the public school system to have a great hands-on experience and learn beyond the traditional classroom. And because best-practice for learning environments is rapidly changing, the school was designed in a way that allows flexibility in terms how rooms are utilized. Education spaces can easily be adjusted as curriculum and teaching requirements change, granting the school a unique ability to continually assess and make changes to the learning environment.

Designing for Distance
COVID-19 has heavily affected the education industry, immediately changing what day-to-day education looks like. Maintaining appropriate distance is a priority in the short-term, and may certainly be on the minds of many for quite some time. Schools are shifting away from completely open plans and using zoning to create separate spaces for different types of work, such as creative collaboration or quiet writing.

The consensus has been to reduce low value-add spaces such as those used for only a short period each day or that take up a disproportionate amount of teaching space, and increase high value-add spaces such as specialist hands-on facilities like labs and music rooms, or agile teaching spaces with flexible and movable furniture and walls. Lincoln-Douglas High School used flooring design instead of walls to define spaces, providing ultimate flexibility to increase the size of an area when necessary.

In addition to designing for distance, infection control is a priority in education spaces and will continue to be a priority for the foreseeable future. Installing quality flooring that is both affordable and easy to clean, like Medintone Homogenous Sheet, Natural Creations with Diamond 10 Technology, and Standard Excelon Imperial Texture, will be vital in education settings moving forward.

Making Calm Contagious
Nearly half of U.S. departments of education incorporate SEL (social emotional learning) in some way. Despite this, a 2018 study by Allstate Foundation found 51% of US high school students don’t believe their schools do enough to help them deal with stress, with 49% claiming their schools don't help them understand their emotions.

Designing spaces that evoke a sense of calm and wellbeing has been a rising trend, and will continue to even more popular, and important, moving forward. Designing biophilic spaces that bring the natural world indoors has a proven ability to improve wellbeing, and flooring, with a broad color palette of soothing textures and colors, plays an exceptional role in designing these types of calming spaces.

More than ever, students are in touch with their senses and concerned with personal wellbeing, and designs will need to follow suit providing additional spaces for solitude and reflection.


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