[With Video] Educating students for jobs we can’t envision (Part 2): 4 new spaces

September 4, 2018

A new range of educational spaces are required for new skills-based, project-based, and technology-augmented pedagogies


In part one of “Educating students for jobs we can’t envision,” we shared how the information revolution has changed the needs of employers. The skillsets they desire from prospective employees are shifting to a more soft-skills-based need with complex problem-solving, critical thinking, and collaboration skills rising to the top.

As the labor market reorients toward these skills, educational institutions are responding. Revised policies are being deployed so that new curriculum, new programs, and new ways of delivering educational content can be achieved. And from a design perspective, learning environments are transforming to accommodate the changing policies and pedagogy.



Because no two communities or schools are the same, design needs will vary for new or renovated learning environments. The design must harmonize with the curriculum, media, and delivery method. To serve the changing education environment, we will see an explosion in new kinds of spaces, particularly the following four types:


Frisco Career and Technical Education Center in Frisco, Texas.


1. Makerspace

Makerspaces (places where people can share equipment and collaborate on projects and ideas) have become a must-have for many educational environments and are surfacing in the workplace and the residential world. Though much talked about, makerspaces are still evolving, and take a variety of forms—from discovery labs to fabrication spaces. At the post-secondary level, most institutions provide these spaces in the library and innovation center. In the library, these spaces are scheduled by students from multiple fields of study working on a common project. Innovation centers use these spaces to allow entrepreneurs, faculty, and students to collaborate on startup technologies. Schools use them primarily in Career and Technology Centers (CTEs). Makerspaces in CTEs promote creativity, complex problem solving and collaboration through project-based learning. See our recent deep dive into Makerspaces in the Stantec Design Quarterly.


An active learning classroom at FastForward, The Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures Incubator Space.


2. Active learning classroom

_q_tweetable:The flexibility of ALCs makes them well-suited for Flipped Classroom models in both post-secondary and K-12 facilities._q_Active learning classrooms (ALCs) are student-centered, technology-rich classrooms. They are distinguished by large student tables and movable seating designed to facilitate and promote active learning. Each table is usually accompanied by a whiteboard and flat screen monitor to display student work. Teaching stations allow the instructor to select, project and highlight student work from any table, or stream instruction media to each table. Larger rooms frequently have microphones at each table and advanced sound enhancement technology. The flexibility of ALCs makes them well-suited for Flipped Classroom models in both post-secondary and K-12 facilities. These spaces are optimal for pedagogies that promote critical thinking through debate and discussion as well as complex problem solving and collaboration through team projects.


Mary Idema Pew Library at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan.


3. Knowledge markets

As more jobs will require human-machine partnerships, “humanness” will become more important than ever, and the need for future workers to create, translate and communicate will be greater. At Knowledge Markets (as seen in the library at Grand Valley State University), students can connect with peers to build competency in specific skills such as brainstorming, integrated research, writing, persuasive speaking, presentation delivery, data visualization and analysis, and communication. Knowledge Markets generally span departments and often find space in campus libraries. 


The media arts center at Keene State College.


4. Digital media labs

These labs support the creation of audio-visual digital media and data and information visualization that enhance research and education. Digital media production is profoundly impacting science, teaching, engineering, interactive multimedia, medicine, physics, biology, earth sciences, and, of course, entertainment. Instructors use these labs to create multimedia content for class, engineers create visual simulations of data that provide new insight into design, and researchers can analyze large complex systems and see patterns for innovation that would otherwise be hidden. These spaces and the programs they house reinforce the importance of the connection between man and machine in the future workplace.   


Putting it all in perspective

It’s important to keep a few caveats in mind regarding this embrace of the new paradigm. Available funding for incorporating any of these space types into your facilities will certainly vary, but a simple renovation can make some of these spaces possible. Culture, too, is important, as bringing previously siloed educational disciplines together can be a towering challenge. Uncertainty is another real test. No one really knows for sure exactly where the careers are going to be in decades to come—the embrace of skills-based learning is based in part on that uncertainty.

It’s worth remembering that every educational setting is unique, every institution is somewhere on its own path in responding to the sea of change in education. Budget and needs vary, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. But project-by-project, we must work toward creating an appropriate balance of learning environment options that help to better prepare today’s students for the careers of the future.

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