Studies indicate that the longer a student remains on campus – and in an academic mindset – the greater their chance for academic growth and success. So, if retention is a key strategy for success, then colleges must consider design solutions that offer a “sense of place” for students outside the classroom.
College educators are struggling; how should they go about keeping their students on campus longer, despite scattered class schedules and competing off-campus activities.
Listening to Modern Students
Modern students are different. They grew up in the information age, with data at their fingertips and various, often cryptic, communication methods. Notebooks and textbooks have been replaced by laptops and tablets. While online databases now offer access to information long before students so much as walk through a classroom door. Modern students are digital natives.
With such an incredible amount of distraction, how on earth are colleges expected to compete for students’ attention and win the retention battle?
Connection is the Key
It’s all about making connections. If you want to capture the attention of modern students, educators, planners and designers must consider the student experience in a way that values and promotes the one thing that technology can't compete with; the social aspects of a college education. While academics are the cornerstone of knowledge, the key to a well-balanced student is to offer them opportunities for social development that prepare them to navigate the professional world that awaits.
We think it's about time that architects begin designing physical environments that are empathetic to the student experience. We need to be purposeful in our planning and execution to help educators win the fight for student retention. More specifically, these environments must provide the variety of amenities modern era students need to keep them on campus and engaged in student life.
Spaces that Encourage Connection
These sorts of spaces offer quiet, secluded areas that appeal to introverts, as well as high-activity zones where extroverts can thrive! In addition, spaces with various seating options for individual, small group and large group activities with accommodations to control noise levels.
The spatial flow of your spaces is very important. It can be seen as the glue that binds it all together. Corridors and hallways are no longer just a means of connecting point A to point B, but rather offer the opportunity for chance encounters, the ability to pause and rest with a friend, and even become informal study spaces.
Keep Moving Forward
Trends in higher education are a response to ever evolving needs of modern students – and they're changing the way college facilities are being designed. Spaces that promote informal socialization and group study are more than just "nice-to-have," they're mandatory if an institution is to remain relevant.