Rethinking learning spaces
By Mark Richards, Head of Design, Godfrey Syrett
Today’s students learn in many different ways: from their lecturers and tutors; from each other; and through a host of digital resources. It follows, therefore, that the environment in which they are learning must be able to adapt to their varying requirements as they work through their course.
On any one day, the tables and chairs in a lecture theatre may need to be pulled together for group work; may need to be separated for a mock exam, or placed into rows in full view of a digital screen. Having lecture room furniture which can be easily reconfigured as needed, and be used in a variety of different ways, is key for a smooth experience for both students and staff.
Away from the classroom environment, students need access to spaces and furniture which enables them to work together in groups, and collaborate on projects. High-backed sofas, such as Spark-Hi, are perfect for creating semi-private discussion areas, the angled side panels enhancing privacy. Spark-Hi sofas can also be placed against a wall for a more individual setup. Others such as Solar, which can be configured to fit larger corner spaces, are ideally suited for more open and relaxed group discussions. Both Spark-Hi and Solar can be fitted with integrated electric sockets, meaning that students can bring their own technology and use it freely, rather than being dependent on university IT areas.
Ensuring that student learning areas are comfortable is key, as any discomfort will detract from their learning experience. Making sure that there are suitable working surfaces in the vicinity, such as coffee tables and laptop tables, will give students the choice of how they want to work. Introducing wooden legs to soft seating creates an instantly more welcoming and softer ambience. A lounge chair with muted fabrics and wooden legs is both comfortable and visually attractive; encouraging students make use of the furniture and the space.
We’re also seeing big changes in library design. As with the breakout learning spaces mentioned above, libraries must cater to group work as well as individual study. In the recently completed Engineering and Science Library at Nottingham University, we made use of the spaces around the edge of the floors to integrate benching for solo working, while the space in the middle of each floor was used for group tables and library stacks. There are also silent working areas and group study rooms, for more focused activities.
In response to the changing requirements we are seeing from workspaces, we have developed a range of furniture to specifically address the flexible workspace. To request a copy, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to www.godfreysyrett.co.uk