It might sound like a paradox at first: digitalization in teaching and learning and the increasing demand of physical learning space development. But it seems the more digital media are being used in teaching settings the more important actual learning spaces in Higher Education institutions become.
The “digital turn” in higher education has more implications than introducing more technological learning tools into classrooms. Due to a rather technology driven debate regarding digitalization in teaching and learning, like artificial intelligence or learning management systems, we tend to forget that we as humans, maintain in physical environments and that learning itself is an analog process. In fact the concept of “the room as the third educator” had already been established in the 1960s and 1970s, which had partly influenced new learning architecture in schools.
Regarding Higher Education, institution standards are still traditional lecture-style teaching methods because the learning architecture defines it. But with the current increasing use of (digital) learning technologies as well as the “shift from teaching to learning” (including individualized, problem-based learning approaches) this challenge becomes more apparent: traditional learning space vs. modern learning methods and goals.
One of the most important goals for Higher Education institutions is to enable future graduates with the so-called 21st century skills, including but not limited to: critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration. Developing those skills needs the adequate learning environment that actually supports them, e.g. group work for collaborative problem-based tasks.
Designing educational buildings has been mostly in the hands of architects who focus on more traditional concepts and structures. Hence there has not been much of an innovative process for almost centuries. Therefore it is vital to include educational expertise equally in the designing process. Educators and architects need to work hand in hand.
Especially in Germany, digital transformation in Higher Education caused a new emphasis on physical learning space design as an important matter regarding the overall strategic development of Higher Education institutions. This could be a new chance for innovative concepts for educational buildings and more sustainable learning spaces in the digital age.
Written by Anne Prill, who will be co-hosting the Panel Session Developing Sustainable Learning Spaces in the Digital Age on Thursday, November 28 from 14:15-15:45. Please check out her recently published papers on Sustainable Learning Space Development and the portfolio of Good Practice Examples.