August 17, 2020

The Connected Campus

Forecasting Trends

Building Long-Term Value and Agility by Connecting Offerings, Organizations and Operations

By Elliot Felix

brightspot and Knoll – with the help of nine innovators across the spectrum of higher education – have reflected on where colleges and universities have been and where they are going.

We’ve imagined a future in which their offerings, operations, and organizations are better connected so they can not only survive but thrive.

You can read an excerpt from The Connected Campus below, and check out the entire whitepaper here.

The Shift from Division to Connection

Shifts in demographics, technology, and economics continue to transform the higher education experience. The historic separations that defined higher education are now changing. Research is becoming more interdisciplinary as teams take on complex problems. Online and on-campus are converging. Wet and dry labs are blending. Teaching and research overlap. Learning happens in and out of the classroom. Individual and team work are symbiotic. Conducting a pre-occupancy needs assessment sets the baseline for post-occupancy performance evaluation. Academic institutions are forging closer relationships with corporate partners. Support services are integrated to provide a “one-stop-shop” for students.

How Campuses Can Be Better Connected

In response to demographic, social, economic, and technological change, institutions will need to change their offerings, their organization, and their operations. Doing so will mean more fully utilizing their campuses, embracing a lifecycle view and evidence-based design, and preparing for a blended world that mixes domains long separated – work and learning, on-campus and online, academia and industry. It will also mean supporting pedagogies that enable students to “learn to be” not just “learning about,” connect physical places and digital platforms by thinking “phygitally,” and leverage space to make an impact – particularly for students who have been historically underserved such as first-generation students, low-income students, students with disabilities, and adult learners.

How Spaces Can Better Support People

Every campus is a unique combination of common spaces, classrooms, labs, offices, libraries, study spaces, student service centers, and residence halls. Institutions can make changes to each of these spaces to respond to the shifts transforming higher education. Many of these shifts have already been accelerated by COVID-19 – such as learning online and working remotely. Doing so will mean creating spaces that are more inclusive, lobbies that are multifunctional, classrooms that support active learning, project spaces that enable impact, student service hubs that end the student “runaround,” hybrid labs that blend different research methods and types, and workplaces that flexibly support different ways of working.

Traditional Campus Connected Campus
Academia and industry separate                                                 Academia and industry partner
Education and work are discrete Lifelong learning
Online and on-campus disconnected Learning combines online and on campus
Formal learning and instruction Learning in and out of the classrooms
Teaching and research are distinct Teaching and research overlap
Discipline-driven research Interdisciplinary research
Labs are either wet or dry Labs combine wet, damp, and dry
Individual work and teamwork distinct                                                        Individual and teamwork fluidly combined
Academic affairs separate from Student Affairs Whole student approach
Siloed staffing and structures Integrated student services
Linear planning and processes Looped planning and processes connecting pre- and post-occupancy
Capital and operational separate Lifecycle cost approach

What Do These Changes Mean for the Workplace?

What do tomorrow’s connected campuses mean for the workplace? Just as online and on-campus are converging for colleges and universities, blending face-to-face and remote work and bringing together digital and physical will be the norm in the workplace. The work-from-home mandates that emerged from COVID-19 shelter-in-place requirements showed many companies that managing a distributed workforce is possible. As today’s students transition to tomorrow’s workforce, organizations will need to enable much greater diversity and inclusion. A more purpose-driven and entrepreneurial workforce will also expect the flexible structures, staffing, space, services, and support as they graduate from connected campuses.

Looking Ahead to the Connected Campus

As colleges and universities grapple with demographic, technological, and economic change, they will need to redesign their offerings, organization, and operations – or else risk not fulfilling their mission or even risk their very existence in the future.

Shifting from a traditional campus to a connected campus will mean institutions have to determine whether they are competing on the high-tech efficiency achieved with scale, or on the high-touch sense that a focus on experience provides. Then, they have to adapt to increases in both collaboration and competition, blend previously disparate activities such as teaching and research, and do it all using an evidence-based approach that looks at the full lifecycle of the campus. They’ll also need to create more welcoming and inclusive spaces, facilitate active learning, support impactful student projects, consolidate student services into hubs, reimagine libraries as creative hubs, create hybrid labs for interdisciplinary research, enable new ways of working among staff and faculty, and provide healthy environments for living and learning together.

As work looks more like school and school looks more like work, these worlds will blend. So, while universities adapt, so too will the future workplace. By bringing together digital and physical, enabling much greater diversity and inclusion, and seeing flexible structures, staffing, space and services as the norm, companies can be ready too. They can position their workplaces as the natural extension of tomorrow’s more connected campuses to serve a population that seamlessly lives in both the physical and digital worlds.

Read the full whitepaper here.

With special thanks to Genny Beemyn, David Clark, Niraj Dangoria, Cedric Howard, Neil Matkin, Sanjit Sethi, Christina Slejko, Stephanie Smith, and Jennifer Sparrow for their interviews and insights! And to our collaborators at Knoll Carol Krane, Carolyn Cirillo, and Kylie Roth for their contributions.