Real or Synthetic?

Haggans in PDU 130226Two recent events have brought the paradox of the 21st century campus into sharp focus for me.  First, I taught one of my courses remotely via Google Hangout.  Second, a seminar class allowed students to have an in-class conversation with a veteran Minnesota campus planner and later to engage in a discussion of Mission and Place by Kenney, Dumont and Kenney.

In the first case, technology is pulling us away from the traditional model.  In the second case, the values of the traditional model pull us back to the chairs and tables of three-dimensional space.  Technology is allowing us to reinvent many aspects of what has traditionally been the exclusive domain of higher education as they are pulled into a synthetic digital domain.  As this happens many educators are seeking and often struggling to retain the unique values of the real face-to-face experience.
Continue reading

Students in the Diagram

The long-term survival of the physical campus will lie in keeping students at the center of the diagram.  The adaptations required will result from a different way of thinking about facilities, in which small moves made with students in mind can be of strategic significance.

A recent project at Cal State Northridge is one example.  Documented in the SCUP Journal Planning for Higher Education by Katherine Stevenson, Sean Clerkin, and Diane Stephens, the project provides a student-centered environment for introductory mathematics. Continue reading

Study Space: On the floor

In a digital world, poor study space is a strategic liability.

In a previous post, I made the case that the ‘idea work’ of reading and writing requires at least 4 square feet of horizontal surface.  Whether by hand, keyboard or touch screen, a horizontal surface is an essential part of the technology.

The most densely packed study spaces are in libraries.  Depending on the hour and day even the side-by-side seats at large library tables are used.  It’s just like classroom or airplane seating.  The middle seat is least desired, but it gets used at peak times.  Such is the demand for functional study space on campus. Continue reading

Students as Investment Analysts

Students know the score.

At higher education conferences, you see educators, administrators, and increasingly, vendors.  You seldom see students.  You might think that they are silent, but they are speaking.

Students can tell you how much they owe and about their concerns about repayment.  They make investment decisions every semester.  By the time they reach college, they’ve been engaged in the digital economy for years. Continue reading

Studying Alone

The irreplaceable value of campuses lies in building community.  Without that they will gradually become hollow shells.

Robert Putnam wrote Bowling Alone about the decline of community involvement over the last 50 years, including the demise of many civic organizations and bowling alleys that once were common fixtures of American life.  He documented waves of technological change from television to two-earner households, and the fraying of community activities.

Perhaps the college campus is the vanishing bowling alley of the 21st century.  Many have documented the waves of technological change from Internet to MITx and Udacity, and the lone student at laptop is a common image. Continue reading