Flexible Learning


// We need to ensure the students and the teachers are comfortable; not just in the physical sense, but mentally as well. Making those spaces inclusive and flexible is a great way to start.

A lot has changed in the way we look at classroom design; those stale and rigid learning environments from our past are beginning to evolve and change into something that will make our children’s learning experience so much better.Like most learning institutions COVID disrupted the conventional way of learning. Although flipped, blended and distance learning techniques were already being used by relatively small numbers, COVID forced the whole world to come up with imaginative ways to carry on teaching which, for the most part, became online learning. This meant students and teachers alike missed out on the buzzing cultural hub education spaces provide.

Now things are getting back to normal, institutions and education space designers are looking at their environments slightly differently and bring with them a more human touch.

/ / Rethinking the learning experience and looking at what’s effective will point us in the right direction when it comes to design

Classrooms have come a long way in the last twenty years, but in the last year or so the design of learning spaces and the philosophy around what a learning space should be has really changed.
The trend now within education is a rethinking of the learning experience and with that a new approach to how the learning space is designed. In the past, traditional designs of classrooms and lecture halls leaned towards functionality; how many students could ‘comfortably’ fit into the space? Was there capacity for visual aids (who remembers the over-head projector?), a suitable desk to write on and access to a fire exit. If you were someone who enjoyed school, it wasn’t because of the design of the classroom. A lot of what was thought of as a priority then is no longer as important and priorities have pivoted towards well-being and effectiveness.

As we look to the future shape of the learning space, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the age of the fixed or static desk and chair is coming to a close being replaced with furniture that will flex and bend to the needs of the space. Whether it’s a chair, a desk, a lectern or even visual aid, it will all be on casters. In today’s learning environment, the desire to have a dynamic space that can be used for many different types of learning is definitely high on the agenda.
The limitless possibilities of a dynamic classroom allow teachers and students alike to better engage and collaborate more than ever before. The simple act of turning their chair around to join a group in a class discussion is now easier, (and less noisy). Or re-arranging the space to make room for an impromptu drama or debate/roundtable discussion. A lot of this is now only possible due to the humble wheel. 
HMC architects want to create spaces that have a ‘meaningful impact on students’ lives’ and ‘need a connected community-centred campus that encourages them to learn inside and outside the classroom’
One of their design principles when designing learning spaces is ensuring spaces are modular and flexible. This allows classrooms to be more than just classrooms, they can be a lecture hall, a collaboration space, or a multimedia presentation space. More traditional spaces will stay unused for parts of the day, as they can’t flex to the needs of the students.*
With the rise of personalised learning, modern classrooms need to give both the student and the teacher more choice. Using flexible furniture, and power supplies will provide a space that can be used in multiple layouts for many purposes in the style that suits the teaching.
It’s fair to say that classrooms are getting smarter and technology is used throughout, from interactive TVs to student laptops and tablets. Most students from age 12 upwards are provided with or expected to have their own laptop. It’s essential that suitable access to power whether on desks or integrated into furniture is available. Trailing cables not only look messy, but are an accident waiting to happen.
The future learning space will need to be designed to facilitate a mixture of teaching styles and needs, and for this work, it’s essential that the furniture and the power are flexible and inclusive.
Fortunately, there appears to be little resistance to the new style of learning environment; leaning towards a more human-centred approach to create a better sense of inclusion and therefore positivity. From furniture to visual aids, to power provision, everything about the learning environment is changing and it’s essential everyone jumps on board. And what’s really interesting, is that from the research we’ve seen, this trend is happening all over the world with similar reports from the U.S., UK, and Australia
OE’s ANIMATE solution provides an effective and efficient way to provide completely mobile power to learning spaces. The high-capacity battery allows hours of charging for laptops and tablets, without trailing cables or plugs, not to mention simple integration into furniture for the ultimate agile solution for classrooms.

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