Last week, #TeamHenderson made our way to Seattle, WA for the SCUP 2019 Annual Conference with some of higher education’s finest college and professional planners. Together, we discussed key trends and lessons learned – basically, all things higher ed. In case you missed it, here are some themes we took away:

Evaluate, Formulate, Implement

Learning environments are constantly adapting to the ever-evolving needs of today’s students and teaching methods – shifting from being resource-centric to discipline and learner-centric. Building on this mindset and taking it to the next level by focusing on what’s called “humanics,” universities are starting to concentrate on opportunities where students can “retool, learn new skills, upscale, and upgrade” their education. Essentially, as new technologies surpass workforce skills, learners must have the opportunity to gain new skills to continue to bring value only they can bring. That way, in a world where technology is woven into everything we touch, they’re equipped with skills and tools that machines and artificial intelligence can’t comprehend. The integration of this literacy can be categorized into three areas:

  • Technology – what machines do
  • Data – what machines produce
  • Human – the ability to be creative, read people, innovate, and transfer knowledge

For students to master these skills, educators are using Experiential Education, giving students the tools they need to be successful through creativity, innovation, and collaboration.

Demographics, Equity, and Everything in Between

Continuing the theme of adapting for today’s students, we’re in the midst a demographic shift. In a way, it’s the moment of truth for planners in the realm of higher education. Many universities are only focused on traditional learners, who account for approximately 26% of students. However, the remaining 74% are typically non-traditional lifelong learners. These universities are at a crossroads and need to move towards meeting the needs of lifelong learners.

A lot of companies don’t offer incentive programs for lifelong learning, which means higher education institutions have an opportunity to step in. By embracing lifelong learning and developing programs to manage to support the ongoing pursuit of knowledge, colleges and universities can provide a solution to the inequity across multiple demographics.

There’s also an opportunity for companies and universities to work together towards empowering lifelong learners. An example highlighted in one of the conference presentations explored integrating business districts into a university campus. Essentially creating a unique mixed-use development that bridges the gap between the classroom and real world. This approach offers post-secondary credentials with labor market value, not necessarily a four-year degree, and can help break the open-ended cycles of inequity.

The Future of Higher Education

What does all of this mean for those of us on the building design side of things?

  1. As we all already knew, learning environments are evolving, becoming purpose-driven, and adaptable to the user. This continues to be a trend as universities stay on the path of creating spaces that are student-centric.
  2. Technology integration is becoming more prevalent in modern learning spaces. A key focus needs to be how that technology can complement the space and learning objectives of the class. This will allow the students’ skills to develop regarding what they’re able to contribute to a task versus a machine.
  3. If more institutions adopt the idea of forming partnerships with businesses on their campus, the required design expertise for these spaces start to go beyond a traditional education building. This means merging the needs workplace, restaurant, retail, and laboratory spaces with those of higher education.
  4. As interdisciplinary and industry partnerships continue to shape the use of campus facilities, integrated planning must become the norm. Space use planning, flexibility, and well-planned infrastructure to support multiple departments or future curriculum changes are all critical to the development or re-development of campuses.

For more information on how we bring innovative building systems design to campuses across the nation, click here.

About the Authors

Carl Holden

Higher Education Practice Director
As our higher education practice director, Carl is not only known for being responsive and thorough, but he’s also classified as the multitasking master. In addition to advocating for innovation and productivity, his hands-on method of leadership is key in bringing best practices to building system designs that are in the client’s best interest - leading his teams in finding the right solution for every design.