While many colleges and universities have been completely remote, the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on higher education remains somewhat of a mystery. With that said, we do have some thoughts on where things are headed. Here's what we think the post-covid university might look like!
Flexibility is the Future
One of the biggest issues faces schools today has to do with adapting and repurpose existing facilities to allow for distance or hybrid learning. Put simply, to make more space in classrooms and residence halls, there needs to be fewer people on campus. In terms of space planning, this has created new opportunity for creatively and flexibly utilizing space.
Of course, the challenge for designers is how to actually create spaces flexible enough for different uses as needed. Laboratories and classrooms that would have otherwise sat empty for hours a day between classes—or altogether during the pandemic—can be converted into technical spaces for STEM-related fields.
For universities that have already made the move to active learning classrooms will already have movable furniture and be in a better position to pivot.
Supercharging the Hybrid Learning Model
In the same way that healthcare rapidly adopted telemedicine in response to COVID-19, higher education quickly pivoted to online learning. In addition to incorporating technology on campus in an increasingly meaningful way, it is now time to explore new ways of delivering impactful content to students who aren’t in the classroom.
As designers, we have to consider how our physical learning environments will be able to fully support longer-term hybrid learning models.
The Opportunity is NOW
The future of higher education will take different forms, many of which are likely unseeable today. But, we know there will always be a need for spaces where faculty, staff and students can come together! If done well, the lessons we learn from the current pandemic can allow for much greater access, equity and potentially more affordable education in the years to come.
The future isn't uncertain and institutions are dealing with issues of limited space, high costs and flexibility. Add to that a full-fledged pandemic and reconsidering an upgrade to your existing college may be a pretty smart move. If there was ever a time to transform an aging or outdated building into something modern, multifunctional and pandemic-proof, it's now!