As summer turns to fall, schools everywhere are preparing for a flood of students, and this year’s incoming class may be more connected than ever before. Yet while technology continues to support the ongoing evolution in teaching and learning, research shows there’s no substitute for direct face-to-face collaboration. This need for constant collaboration and connection is driving the emergence of a new type of learning space across college campuses—“hub zones” that offer a place for students to meet, gather, and work together.
Students look for spaces that help them connect with others before, during and after class. But what makes a hub hubbable? How much campus space should be dedicated to these zones? How can college administrators support the design of these spaces?
A survey of higher education facility planners, architects, and designers, Hub Life: Insights that Shape Campus Spaces. Simultaneously, we gathered insights from students–-primary users of hub spaces on campus-–inviting them to highlight their hubs in a short video contest submission. The results reveal some interesting touch points about hub zones:
• They enable teamwork. More than 70 percent of respondents identify collaboration as the primary benefit of hub zone learning. It may seem obvious that people depend on hubs when they need to hold team sessions, work on group projects, and meet with others.
• Technology is top priority. Nearly half of respondents note technological capability (WiFi and electric power) as being important to hub design and layout. Technology needs to be there as an enabler–like a sail on a boat rather than the anchor tying the user to one place.
• Accessibility is key. On average, up to 30 percent of space in student buildings, residence halls and libraries is allocated for hub zone use. As you walk a facility, you quickly see examples of hub spaces, even in areas you didn’t expect.
• Design to adapt. Flexibility is the number one trend in hub zone furnishings, including ease of maneuverability and white board access. At the same time, adaptive spaces are multi-use spaces, with elements that don’t always include casters.
• Size matters. The majority of respondents say zones should be designed for less than 10 people. Most facilities have more dedicated spaces (classrooms, conference rooms, etc.). Hub zones fall everywhere else. They are the places where planned or unplanned activities take place.
These results reinforce something we all know—a college campus is a dynamic, humming, communal place. Successful learning spaces, including hub zones, encourage engagement, which drives deeper levels of learning. The design and planning that goes into hub creation reinforces the diverse learning styles, design requirements and activities that these hubs support.
To learn more about hub zone design and the research survey, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
As director of Herman Miller Education, Jeff Vredevoogd leads the effort to expand the understanding of evolving learning trends and the impacts on higher education environments. With more than 25 years experience in the commercial furniture industry, Jeff partners with higher education leadership to develop spaces that have a positive impact on teaching and learning. He is a member of Educause, the Society for College and University Planning, and Acuho-i.