The life of today’s student is a never ending blur of reading textbooks in the coffee shop, trekking to the library, quizzing classmates in study group, mingling in the dorm lounge and chit-chatting at the student union. With the rise in learning taking place outside traditional classroom walls, a new survey from Herman Miller, a leader in research-based learning space design, sheds light on a new phenomenon—hub zones. These deliberately crafted indoor collaborative spaces are emerging as key learning centers on 21st century campuses across the country.
Results from the survey, titled “Hub Life: Insights that Shape Campus Spaces,” reveal the design factors that influence learning and highlight insights that will shape future education space design. Herman Miller will share these findings at the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) conference being held this week in Baltimore.
“While we may be familiar with more traditional, formal learning spaces on campus, research shows that just as much learning takes place after students walk out of the classroom,” says Jeff Vredevoogd, director of Herman Miller Education. “The Hub Life survey was structured to glean a better understanding of the planning and design that goes into constructing these spaces known as ‘hub zones’.”
More than 70 percent of respondents identified collaboration as the primary benefit of hub zone learning. Additional key findings from the survey of higher education facility planners, architects and designers from the United States include:
- Location is Key – On average, up to 30 percent of space in student buildings, residence halls and libraries is allocated for hub zone use.
- Design to Adapt – Flexibility is the number one requirement for hub zone furnishings, including ease of maneuverability and white board access.
- Technology is Top Priority – Nearly half of respondents noted technological capability (WiFi and electric power) as being important to hub design and layout.
- Size Matters – The majority of respondents said zones should be designed for less than 10 people.
“Our findings show that the design and planning that goes into hub creation reinforces the diverse learning styles, design requirements, and activities that these zones support,” notes Vredevoogd. “Students, who are often seen as the primary hub user group, are sharing their feedback with us. Their insights play a key role, helping to drive meaningfully different design that keeps the end-user in mind.”
Students Voice Their Support
Herman Miller invited students to contribute to the ongoing hub discussion by participating in a video contest entitled “Where’s Your Hub?” Students from the United States and Canada submitted videos, describing their own personal on-campus hub. Three winners—Fiona Green, Keaton Davis and Jesse Hendrickson—and seven honorable mentions were selected, with videos receiving recognition at SCUP.
“These results underscore the inherent social dynamics on campus,” says Vredevoogd. “Students seek out opportunities to collaborate and learn together, a fact that is mirrored in the survey results. The insights we learned from the student videos reinforced the Hub Life themes, namely that physical surroundings must be conducive to collaboration, and above all, be comfortable.”