What’s Next For Campus Spaces?

As summer progresses and colleges and universities plan for the return of students after last spring’s sudden pivot to remote teaching and learning, decisions are being made and plans implemented to best utilize available space while ensuring everyone’s safety. University campuses are like cities unto themselves, complete with buildings, infrastructure, and services. They are microcosms of cities and towns. While many include open spaces and beautiful campus greens, they have some of the highest population densities of any type of community. It is not uncommon to have residence halls for more than 1000 students, dining halls and lecture halls with more than 500 students, and athletic facilities hosting tens of thousands of people at a time.

Colleges and universities have been preparing for some form of hybrid learning re-opening in fall 2020, more or less, since the start of the pandemic in March. They have been installing hand sanitizing stations, planning for large-scale testing and contact tracing, establishing procedures to isolate students who become infected, and thinking about classroom and other physical space limitations in light of recommendations (and in some cases state requirements) for social distancing. Faculty have been reflecting on what was learned last spring, sharing best practices, and preparing (with a bit more notice this time) for the coming semester, whether in a fully online mode or a hybrid mode that includes both in-classroom and online learning. There has been plenty written about whether colleges should or should not re-open this fall, the drivers behind those decisions, and the risks that accompany them. There have also been several prominent articles about likely and expected behavior by students.

But what seems inevitable, especially if the transition to hybrid learning is permanent, or if Coronavirus persists, or if experience with Covid-19 suggests different campus operations would better prepare colleges for any future pandemic, is a review and re-imagination of campus spaces. One campus senior leader with whom I spoke, reflecting on his recent walk across campus, said he looked up at all of their new classroom buildings and residence halls and said, ‘My god, what if we built these all wrong?’ wondering about the future needs of his university.

Read the full article on Forbes.com.

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