LSC Postings re: Planning (July 2015)

Recent reports from national and disciplinary communities are valuable resources for institutional teams tackling the challenge of change. Although few mention attention to the physical environment for learning,  the processes and analyses of cultural change presented in these reports relating to a transformed environment for learning advance the planning of spaces in which learning happens. 

The critical features of success and failure in planning documented in this report present a broad set of integrated activities that must be incorporated into the planning process if the resulting learning spaces are to serve the institution with distinction immediately and into the future.

Critical Features of Success and Failure


The importance of strong leadership with a clear and well communicated educational vision is repeatedly emphasised in the literature…. Indeed, “one of the main reasons that changes do not occur is that people fundamentally do not understand the proposed change and need to undergo a learning process in order to successfully enact the change….” 

Faculty development. 

Participation in faculty development programmes appears to influence an individual’s openness to implementing new teaching and learning approaches in the classroom....

Faculty engagement. 

Developing a strong sense of faculty ownership of the reforms is identified as critical for successful change:

  • Establish a sense of urgency 
  • Form a powerful guiding coalition
  • Gather a leadership team to design and promote the curricular change
  • Create a vision
  • Define and agree upon new learning objectives and a new learning environment
  • Communicate the vision 
  • Discuss the new objectives and environment with the college and revise based on feedback 
  • Empower others to act on the vision
  • Implement new curriculum using a pilot, if necessary 
  • Plan for and create short-term wins
  • Conduct a formative evaluation of the program, investigating strengths and weaknesses of the current implementation, and indicators of short-term gains
  • Consolidate improvements and sustain the momentum for change 
  • Decide how the new approach may be used for the entire college and prepare an implementation plan
  • Institutionalise the new approaches
  • Prepare faculty and staff for the new implementation, implement, and follow up with improvements.

… the development of a “collegial commitment to student learning…is seen to be an important element in developing an effective and coherent educational programme."

- The Royal Academy of Engineering. "Achieving excellence in engineering education: the ingredients of successful change." March 2012. 


LSC Postings re: Planning - Beginning Steps & Giving Attention to Low-hanging Fruit (June 2015)

To introduce the series of LSC Webinar snapshots, some reflections from participants at a 2009 PKAL/LSC/ CIC/NITLE Workshop on Learning Commons.  Approximately 25 campus teams participated, each including faculty, academic administrators, IT directors, and facilities officers.  At the workshop conclusion, individuals and teams shared their insights about planning that they were taking back to share with colleagues.  Note:

  • most of these are low-cost.  
  • most can be woven into institutional policies and practices for long term impact. 
  • reflections suggest opportunities for formal and informal attention, by individuals as well as teams.


  • How important it is to think about the ‘butterfly’ approach to planning. We should start right now thinking about what we are doing, about what we might be doing, and monitoring the impact of small changes—anticipating unintended consequences.  Be reminded that the goal of planning is not to do things that should be undone.

  • A scarcity of resources does not mean a scarcity of imagination.  

"What we need to do is use what we already have." —Susan Sontag

  • The importance of reviving spaces with existing resources at minimal expense. Create destination spaces around campuses—particularly within the library. Paint—introduce color. Rearrange and/or install furniture. 
  • The importance of involving students in the planning process. Walk around the campus with students. Look for potential spaces for redesign at low cost, as a means for piloting new approaches. Be very clear about the first impression that a student has when walking into a learning space.

  • The power and comfort of visual appeal for our students.
  • Given current fiscal restraints, it is important to take time asking what we can do with what we have in ways that are not costly, yet do not preclude future actions.
  • Importance of asking: “what do our students do in our spaces after 4:30 p.m.” when we have left campus?
  • Understand and build on what we already have in place. We may be able to make progress more quickly and cheaply than we might imagine.

(Repurposed Library Room. University of Michigan)

  • We need to be sure the campus ‘big-picture’ thinkers are on our team as our planning proceeds. We need to avoid those with narrow interests and/or an inability to visioning.

"By increasing our capacity to improvise..., live with permanent ambiguity and novelty, [we are freed] to go beyond the predictable, to embrace complexity."  —Riel Miller

  • Use evolution as a metaphor for planning learning spaces, since all spaces evolve over time.
  • The key guiding force in all facilities planning has to be the institutional mission.

"Spaces in which humans grow: a learning community…where mind and sensibility are shared… a place to learn together about the real world, and about possible worlds of the imagination, of materials and learn the power of doing these things together." —Jerome S. Bruner

To keep pace with continually changing needs, we must create learning spaces that support the “science of change.” A “science of change” learning environment incorporates flexibility, incremental adaptability, and social awareness. Those responsible for the physical environment for learning on a college or university campus can be certain that future students and faculty will absolutely need a roof over their heads, air, water, and warmth. Beyond that, they can only imagine. But, they have the power to plan for the unknown, to shape the future for students, science, and society.

Planning and Visioning-- Jeanne L. Narum

Upcoming Events


September 23, 2015​
3:30 - 5:00 p.m. EDT


  • Leticia Britos Cavagnaro, Deputy Director of the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter) and Lecturer at Hasso Plattner Institute of Design - Stanford University
  • Jeanne L. Narum, Principal - Learning Spaces Collaboratory

​Planning Group:

  • Jacqueline P. Ashby,  Simon Fraser University
  • Bryan Cannon, SmithGroupJJR
  • Tim O'Connell, HOK
  • Kurt Paterson, James Madison University
  • Bonnie Sanborn, Cornell University
  • Esther Vargas, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Susan Whitmer, Herman Miller

Learning Outcomes:

  • Why attention to makerspaces is increasingly important.
  • What we have learned about makerspaces that work and how we know.
  • How to imagine makerspaces for the future.
  • How to realize makerspaces for the future. 


Part of the DNA of the Learning Spaces Collaboratory is encouraging campuses to move from analysis to action.  

Over the past several years, LSC webinars have spotlighted stories about transforming the physical environment for learning. Some of these were significant initiatives—resulting in major new facilities or renovated spaces. Other stories were about beginning the process of transforming the physical environment by giving attention to low-hanging fruit.

Over the summer, we will be presenting a series of LSC Webinar Snapshots, sharing with the broader LSC community lessons learned about the value of mindful planning. 

The University of Illinois at Chicago Experience with Project Oasis, an Informal Learning Space Program
David Taeyaerts, Director, Office of Campus Learning Environments - University of Illinois at Chicago

UIC Webinar Snapshot #1

UIC Project Oasis Session Learning Outcomes:

  • Gain insights on the role informal learning spaces (ILS) play in enhancing students’ collegiate experience
  • Understand the ‘kit of parts’ used to create a common language for an ILS and how each design is tweaked to make it unique
  • Explore metrics used to measure the success of an ILS’s. 
  • Learn how to create and sustain an informal learning space program, with internal and external support.


Implementing an AAU STEM Initiative at The University of Arizona
Gail Burd, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
John Pollard, Associate Professor of Practice, Department of Chemistry
Jane Hunter, UA AAU Undergraduate STEM Education Project
Robyn Huff-Eibl, University Libraries

UA Webinar Snapshot #2

Learning Outcomes:

  • See significant opportunities for synergy among efforts in course design, faculty development, and redesign of learning spaces.
  • Be inspired to work with what you have – you don’t have to wait for a new building.
  • Feel empowered to use collaborative learning spaces even for classes as large as 250 students.


What Works: Important Questions for Technologies and Pedagogies in 21st Century Learning Commons
Anu Vedantham, Director, Weigle Information Commons - University of Pennsylvania Libraries


Adapting Classrooms for Student-centered & Technologically-supported Pedagogies
​Felix Kronenberg, Assistant Professor and Director of the Center for Language Learning - Rhodes College

To gain a deeper understanding of:

  • how to evaluate each feature of a physical space for learning for its potential impact on the quality and character of the experience of learning 
  • what flexibility means  in the context of a space intended for active, technology-enhanced learning
  • the optimal relationship between the designers and users of these learning environments.


Steps Taken to Imagine, Prototype, Design, Construct, and Assess a Major Library Renovation- The Duke LINK Project
Edward D. Gomes, Associate Dean of Technology Services, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences— Duke University

Key Points:

  • Developing planning principles: scenarios and case studies
  • Imagining the future: beta-projects and mock-ups
  • Establishing design principles: enhanced collaborative, interdisciplinary, and eLearning
  • Exploring and assessing the end result.



Learning Space Design for the Ethnically Diverse Undergraduate Classroom
Mary Anne Akers, Dean - Morgan State University
Jim Determan, Principal - Hord Coplan Macht

How to connect the dots between:

  • institutional goals for student learning--what learners are to become and the process of planning spaces for learning
  • research on how learning happens to the process of planning spaces for learning
  • the work of pioneering agents of change on other campuses and local efforts to shape and sustain an ecosystem of learning spaces
  • the process of planning spaces for learning and the institutional vision of its future.



October 13-14, 2015
Washington University in St. Louis


October 20, 2015​
3:30 - 5:00 p.m. EDT

(American Association of Colleges and Universities. “Falling Short? College Learning and Career Success.” 2015.)


October 22 - 25, 2015

The School of Education & Social Policy is hosting the 37th Annual Meeting of the Association for Interdisciplinary Studies at Merrimack College is located in North Andover, MA.



December 9, 2015​
3:30 - 5:00 p.m. EST

(National Science Foundation. Solving the Puzzle: Researching the Impacts of Climate Change Around the World. 2009.)