Future of the Campus in a Digital World

2 by 1 by 3As the need for synchronous place and time evaporates, the physical campus must provide values that are not available by other means. Campuses need to be transformed as if their survival were at stake.

Future of the Campus in a Digital World. is my assessment of the state of the campus at the close of 2014.  It is in the form of a 10 page pdf.  I hope you will share it with your colleagues and let me know your thoughts.

Offices are Personal, Workplaces are Functional

Office rectangle.squareFaculty offices are little changed from a time without the web, browsers and cell phones. Most administrative workplaces are just as quaint. This might be appropriate if faculty members could be in their offices, administrators could function at the speed of paper, and students did not expect 24/7 access. Times have changed faster than the campus has adapted.

Responding to this challenge is more difficult than improving teaching spaces. It is more problematic than transforming libraries.   Offices are personal. The perquisites of status and identity as well as the culture of the academy are threatened. Continue reading

The Band Plays On

Band PlayingTwo distinctly different views of reality were on display at the 2014 Society of College and University Planning conference: traditional and nontraditional – bundled and unbundled. The cognitive dissonance was there for all to see and hear.

The traditional view bundles residential experience with marching bands and the book-lined study. The nontraditional view unbundles all of this, offering credit hours and progress toward a degree without dorms, touchdowns or libraries. This all makes sense as long as they are serving different audiences – different customers interested in different value propositions. When they need to appeal to the same customer this cognitive dissonance will take the form of economic competition to squeeze what Rich DeMillo calls the middle. Continue reading

Guest Commentary – Leonard Rodrigues

The trajectory of traditional higher education may be in flux.  Yet the value of physical campus, however difficult to define, endures.  Leonard Rodrigues, former University Architect at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, has written a Guest Commentary considering the role of the university campus as a “condensation nuclei” for the city as a complex system.  Len’s observations consider the urban nature of the campus.  This thesis honors the influence of Kevin Lynch, one of his mentors at MIT, as well as the work of Jayne Jacobs and  Ken Greenberg.

A previous Guest Commentary by Duke Oakley follows Len’s piece.  While the rationales and perspectives differ, both arguments support the value and long-term viability of the campus.  My thanks to each for their contributions to a continuing discussion about the future of the campus.

Leonard Rodrigues is a graduate of McGill University in Montreal and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  He has practiced architecture throughout western Canada and from 2003 to 2008, he was University Architect at the University Alberta in Edmonton. Now based in Vancouver, he is completing a doctorate in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Alberta.

Digital Visible

Hunt Library Int.2.wcThe physical implications of the digital transformation of higher education are becoming visible. Classrooms and libraries are being retooled in response to changes in basic assumptions that have guided campus development for more than a century. Student housing and campuses are evolving in response to social media and the changing use patterns of members of the campus community.  From classrooms to libraries to residence halls, digital transformation is changing the physical presence and requirements of each institution.

Continue reading

Classrooms: Bigger, Flatter, Faster and Fewer

Even in the digitally driven future of higher education, three-dimensional classroom spaces will be needed.  They won’t be used in the traditional manner and they won’t be the traditional kind.  They will be bigger, flatter, faster and there will be fewer classrooms for the same number of students.

Lectures will continue, but already they occupy less class time.  Pedagogy is changing in and outside of the classroom.  In the classroom, change is not disabling the lecture; it is enabling discussion, teamwork and practical applications. Whether fast or slow, the rate of change is limited by each institution’s culture.  Differences in institutional culture will become evident in the structure of classrooms and what happens there. Continue reading

Campus Forever?

Northrup reversedIt is hard to find anyone who thinks his or her own undergraduate campus will cease to be.  It is as if these places will go on forever.

At a recent SCUP conference I asked attendees to tell me why their campus would or would not exist in 2040.  One said their campus would morph into a “multi-purpose innovation / business / research park”.  All the rest said their campus would survive – at least until 2040.

The reasons fell into four categories:  too big to fail, enough demand, adaptable enough and unique mission.  Can this be right?

To survive, campuses must be more than a collection of familiar physical artifacts and stage sets for live action reality shows. Continue reading

Legacy and a Blank Slate

Blank SlateProvosts and presidents are asking how much campus they actually need.  Campus planners are caught between decisions of building or not building.  As each contemplates changes to the trajectory of their institution, they will be well served to have the courage to consider both a blank slate and “Old Main.”  Making campus matter in the 21st century requires two contradictory ideas:  respecting legacy and starting fresh.  Until recently much was tacitly assumed to be fundamental to the idea of campus:

  • Physical class time was required.
  • Serendipitous encounters occurred face to face.
  • The value of an institution was tied to a specific geography.
  • Books were on paper.
  • An undergraduate degree required eight semesters.
  • Research required specialized locations; and
  • Interactions among students and faculty were synchronous.

These assumptions are becoming either obsolete or optional.  The choices vary among institutions and are a function of evolving business models. Continue reading

To Build, or Not to Build

UMN.vert.cropUniversity presidents and provosts are always faced with the choice of staying the course or modifying the trajectory of their institutions.  Due to failing business models, rapidly evolving digital competition and declining public support, the stakes are rising.  Some are asking how they should think about the campus built for the 21st century.

My first draft of recommendations:

  • Build no net additional square feet
  • Upgrade the best; get rid of the rest
  • Manage space and time
  • Measure productivity
  • Right-size the whole
  • Rethink
  • Take sustainable action
  • Make campus matter

Continue reading

All fall down: the tipping point has been reached

Walls fall downThe metaphorical walls and gates that have defined higher education are falling down.  The literal walls and gates will require some careful rethinking to avoid a similar fate.  For those who view the traditional campus as essential to authentic higher education, this will be a challenging time.  The relationship between an institution’s business model and its physical presence is being broken.

We have reached the tipping point in the digital transformation of higher education that has been anticipated for more than a decade.  The proof lies in faculty votes that are beginning to be taken around the country.  As if suffering through the stages of grief, faculties and administrations have been in denial.  Now they have moved to anger.  Bargaining and acceptance are yet to come. Continue reading