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Learning Spaces as a Strategic Priority


  • A focused learning spaces design team can establish guidelines and implementation plans for learning spaces that promote student success.
  • Seeking stakeholder participation in planning yields a design that meets the needs of the people who will be using a new space.
  • Ongoing research into user reactions to new spaces enables constant, incremental improvement of learning space designs.

In April 2007 Butler Community College made learning spaces one of its five strategic priorities. The college had just completed a major renovation of the work spaces for the IT division and had started a project to build a student union and create informal learning spaces at the Andover campus. With learning spaces becoming a strategic priority, Butler pulled together a learning spaces design team with a dozen members representing students, faculty, instructional administration, facilities, student services, research and planning, and technology. Their three-year project will establish guidelines and an implementation plan for engaging, state-of-the-art learning spaces that promote student success.

The team organized itself around four objectives:

  • Define learning spaces
  • Research learning spaces concepts and models
  • Establish a set of minimum standards for various types of learning spaces
  • Develop a college-wide, comprehensive implementation plan for the design and development of learning spaces at Butler Community College

As a first step, in spring 2008 the new learning spaces team investigated partnering with Herman Miller’s Learning Studios project to pilot a general-education classroom as a studio and, at least initially, as a demonstration room. We intended to build an awareness campaign and use the experiences gained in that room to draft possible space design criteria. Launching a single experimental Learning Studio looked to us like a logical step in the development of more effective learning and working spaces at Butler. We planned to use our Andover campus renovation experiences as a proof of concept to set up the single Learning Studio.

Before the fall term started, however, our project blossomed from one pilot classroom to four when our Nursing division came into a substantial private donation and decided to convert two of their classrooms into Learning Studios. So the project grew to include two general-education rooms — one at our El Dorado campus, one at our Andover campus — and two Nursing rooms at El Dorado. We also expanded the project to include a study of the impact of the new student union at Andover, which opened in November 2008.

We moved fast — from planning to occupation in three months — and struggled to have faculty oriented and the four rooms renovated before the fall started. They weren’t. What we had intended to do in the fall was put a handful of regularly scheduled classes in the Learning Studios and observe the experiences of teachers and students. We did that, but because the rooms weren’t ready, equipment was delayed, and orientation was rushed, the fall also became a test of our agility in managing systemic change effectively.

The compressed timeframe made it impossible to create the awareness and buy-in we wanted up front from faculty and staff. That only emerged after the semester was over. Author Tom Erwin, CIO and Learning Spaces goal coordinator, found creating a common vision for effective learning spaces to be a major challenge.

In spring 2009 we are continuing the experiment in the same classrooms, but we have taken much stronger steps to communicate with faculty teaching in those rooms and coordinating their participation in the study. Now, in the middle of the spring 2009 semester, we feel the project is more focused. Best of all, we have, by making learning spaces an issue, opened the door for a meaningful institutional dialogue on the quality of teaching at Butler, the role space and technology play in student engagement, and the dynamics of the student-teacher relationship.

Involving Stakeholders in Design

Learning spaces became a strategic priority because of the limitations of Butler’s facilities. Classrooms are boxy, typically 600 square feet, based on 1960s design concepts, lacking technology, and exemplifying the gap between what our students expect and what we have the capacity to deliver.

Before Classroom Photos

At the Andover location, the college had acquired a lease on a 120,000-square-foot former engineering and manufacturing facility in the city’s industrial park and set to work converting the building to offices and classrooms. Andover is Butler’s largest campus, and its buildings spread out over a mile and a half, with no place for students to gather between classes. As senior management and Andover staff discussed the future of the new building, they agreed that renovations should not merely replicate the outdated classrooms — new models were needed. And not just new space designs, but a new way of planning space and allocating resources. The large development team put in charge of the student union project determined to ask stakeholders what they wanted and evaluate the results of space planning from their perspective.

The student union (SU) team committed to engaging students, faculty, and staff in planning the student union. In 2007 Butler’s research and effectiveness office conducted a study to gather input from students and employees at Andover regarding the kind of union they wanted. The research office surveyed more than 4,100 students and more than 500 employees to identify their preferences for facilities, programs, and services in the proposed union space.

Using that input, the project architect developed a preliminary design, which the research office took to stakeholders in a series of focus groups in April 2007. The architect revised his design in light of feedback from the first sessions. The research office field-tested the new iteration three days later at more focus groups and gathered more feedback, and the SU team finalized the design before the end of the spring semester. The new union opened in fall 2008.

Northeast Aerial Photo

What Does Butler Get from a New Student Union?

Moving from no gathering spaces (apart from a few chairs lining hallways) to a full-service student union has certainly made an impact on the students. The opening of the union validated our stakeholder-centered methodology for planning and creating space at Butler. It also begged some important questions:

  • What do our students get from the new space?
  • What do we get from it?

Now that the union is open, the research office is investigating those questions. Research staff have started a long-term study to determine the union’s impact on student satisfaction and engagement. They are interviewing students and conducting surveys but also stepping back and observing how students interact in the new spaces. Preliminary observations suggest students already think the new union will encourage greater collaboration and interaction; they also have a sense that the college is interested in their success.

Union Entrance PhotoSLC Photo

Atrium PhotoUnion Cafe Photo

Photos of Butler Learning Studios and Student Union courtesy of Herman Miller, Inc.

Over time, the research office’s study of the Andover Student

Union will seek to:

  • Document how student interaction in informal gathering spaces changed after the union opened.
  • Quantify a return on investment for the union. Is ROI merely a financial issue, or can higher levels of student satisfaction count as ROI?
  • Identify which planning methods and space design criteria have the most impact on student success.

With the union study already underway, it was natural to take the same approach with the Learning Studios. In that project we are evaluating the impact of formal and informal learning spaces on student engagement and satisfaction and will use the research to inform the creation of design models.

In fall 2008, and again in spring 2009, the focus of our research is on observing the experiences of students and teachers in the general education Learning Studios and Nursing classrooms. For this initial phase of our study, we adapted a survey tool developed by Herman Miller. A pre-occupancy version of the survey was administered to instructors and students to gather their perceptions of the traditional classroom. Toward the end of the fall, a post-occupancy version of the survey was administered to gather their perceptions of the Learning Studios. Follow-up focus groups with faculty and students were conducted to clarify and deepen feedback. The same methodology is being applied this spring.

Classroom Perceptions

The survey measures perceptions of how well our traditional classrooms and Learning Studios address:

  • Basic human needs — comfort, convenience, support for the learner
  • Teaching — method, technology and tools, flexibility, effectiveness
  • Learning — style, technology and tools, flexibility, effectiveness
  • Engagement — communication, collaboration, interaction, sense of community

By looking at the differences in response rates for the same questions in the pre- and post-occupancy surveys, we can determine whether students and teachers prefer the traditional room design or the Learning Studios design based on each of those four design attributes. (See the sidebar Glossary of Key Research Constructs.)

Key Results

Results from the first semester of the Learning Studios project indicate that both students and faculty have a stronger preference for the Learning Studios over the traditional classroom. Here’s what we learned from the students who experienced the two general-education Learning Studios in the fall:

  • They think the studios provided greater flexibility to support group work and provided the ability to reconfigure and adjust the furniture easily.
  • They think the studios provided greater ability to contribute in class and approach the instructor after class.
  • It is easier to see written materials and hear the instructor in the Learning Studio.
  • It is also easier to comprehend materials and access them after class time.
  • The studios provide more opportunity to use display technology and reconfigure it.
  • The studios provided more comfortable seating, good quality lighting, and nice aesthetics.
  • Seating, tables, and whiteboard in the studios were easier to adjust.

Here’s what the faculty who taught in the general-education pilot studios told us:

  • It was easier to see students, hand out materials, and interact with students in the studios.
  • The studios enhanced communication with students during class.
  • Collaboration among students and between students and faculty was easier in the studios.
  • Teaching in the studios improved their perception that they were valued as a faculty member at Butler.

As of this writing, fall semester survey results from the two Nursing classrooms are still being analyzed. A final report is expected soon.

Photo of Nita Jackson Teaching

Nita Jackson, Sociology Instructor
in the Andover Learning Studio

Photo of Nelson Teaching (A) Photo of Nelson Teaching (B)

Nelson Escalante, Philosophy and Art Appreciation Instructor
in the Andover Learning Studio

Photos of Butler Learning Studios and Student Union courtesy of Herman Miller, Inc.

Analysis of Fall 2008 Results

As noted, all students and faculty involved in classes taught in the two Learning Studio classrooms in the fall 2008 semester completed both a baseline survey regarding their experiences in the typical classroom and a post-occupancy survey related to their experiences in the Learning Studio.

Students and faculty alike reported positive experiences in the Learning Studio and greater levels of student engagement and satisfaction. Comparison of the baseline and post-occupancy surveys revealed that in the Learning Studio:

  • Student-student and student-faculty interactions increased.
  • Class discussion is used more frequently as a teaching method.
  • Students and faculty both are more comfortable with different teaching and learning styles.
  • Students had a greater ability to see other students in the class.
  • The room configuration and furniture is better able to support group work.
  • The furniture is easier to move, and moving the furniture does not conflict with the needs of other classes in the room.
  • The seating is more comfortable.
  • Butler’s image and branding improved significantly.

Both students and faculty did express some frustration with technology not being in place at the beginning of the semester and with their lack of expertise in using the technology.

Teaching Styles

In the survey students were asked to rank selected teaching styles according to their own preferences. We collected data on these rankings in both pre- and post-occupancy surveys to see if changes in the learning spaces could influence student preferences in how instructors teach.

We are not quite sure what to make of these preliminary results, but as Table 1 shows, preference for class discussion was stronger in the Learning Studios. We might expect preferences for small group work to be stronger in the studios, given our assumptions about the value of student-to-student interaction, but we know that generally our students are reluctant to engage in small group work. The impact of space and technology on teaching styles is a major focus of the next phase of our research.

Survey question: Please rank the following items 1–4, with 1 being your most preferred way of learning and 4 being your least preferred way of learning.

Table 1. Student Ranking of Teaching Styles by Classroom Type (1=favorite, 4=least favorite)

Teaching Styles 1 2 3 4
Lecturing Typical classroom (n=340) 21% 14% 13% 53%
Learning Studio (n=186) 19% 17% 16% 48%
Small Group Work Typical classroom (n=339) 15% 24% 32% 29%
Learning Studio (n=187) 17% 26% 26% 31%
Class Discussion Typical classroom (n=339) 30% 31% 28% 11%
Learning Studio (n=187) 34% 29% 31% 6%
Demonstration Typical classroom (n=339) 34% 31% 27% 7%
Learning Studio (n=187) 30% 28% 27% 15%

Frequency of Teaching Method

In the survey we also asked teachers to report how often they use selected teaching methods and students how often they experienced these methods. Table 2 shows a gap in the perceptions of students and teachers regarding what methods are used. It also shows some curious shifts in the perceived frequency of these methods from the traditional classroom to the Learning Studio. Students reported that small group work, class discussion, and demonstrations were used more often in the Learning Studios; faculty said they lectured more in the studios. We will review this issue again when the spring survey data is analyzed.

Survey question (teachers): How frequently do you use the following teaching methods in the Learning Studio? Check the box that applies to each method.

Survey question (students): In your experience, how frequently are the following learning activities used in the Learning Studio?

Table 2. Frequency of Teaching/Learning Methods by Classroom Type

Teaching Method Percentage Who Responded “Always” or “Frequently”
Student: Typical Classroom (n=377) Student: Learning Studio (n=215) Change Faculty: Typical Classroom (n=21) Faculty Learning Studio (n=12) Change
Lecturing 82% 73% -9% 67% 75% +8%
Small group work 28% 42% +14% 65% 50% -15%
Class discussion 63% 73% +10% 95% 75% -20%
Demonstration 38% 46% +8% 47% 59% +12%

Basic Human Needs

The most fundamental research construct we studied in the Learning Studio surveys is the concept of basic human needs. Any space design should promote physical comfort and meet the needs of the people using that space. In the surveys we asked students and teachers who spent the fall 2008 term in the pilot Learning Studios to comment on how the traditional classroom and Learning Studios compare in meeting basic human needs.

Students generally expressed stronger preferences for the Learning Studios, but instructors noted some frustrations with the limited space for materials and access to whiteboards. The results, summarized in Tables 3–6, indicate a need for us to rethink the size and design of the teaching stations that replaced the traditional teacher’s desk and of the layout of whiteboard space. However, difficulties we faced in getting whiteboards installed in a timely manner at the Andover campus Learning Studio may account for some of the results.

Table 3. Student Satisfaction with Traditional Classroom and Learning Studio Features

In the classroom, I am satisfied with… Percentage Who Responded “Strongly Agree” or “Agree”
Typical Classroom (n=377) Learning Studio (n=215) Change
Amount of work surface 56% 75% +19%
Comfort of my seating 43% 86% +43%
Ease of seeing the written materials on the whiteboard 66% 66% 0%
Ease of seeing materials on the projection screen 75% 67% -8%
Acoustics in the room 54% 73% +19%
Quality of the lighting 71% 80% +9%
Ease of clearly understanding instructor’s spoken words 76% 89% +13%
Quality/reliability of wireless Internet connection 37% 57% +20%
Space for laptops 28% 58% +30%

Table 4. Faculty Satisfaction with Traditional Classroom and Learning Studio Features

In the classroom, I am satisfied with… Percentage Who Responded "Strongly Agree" or "Agree"
Typical Classroom (n=21) Learning Studio (n=12) Change
Amount of work surface for teaching materials 31% 8% -23%
Size/amount of whiteboard 70% 42% -28%
Ease of writing on the whiteboard 70% 58% -12%
Ease of clearly understanding students’ spoken responses/discussion 62% 92% +30%
Quality/reliability of wireless Internet connection 24% 42% +18%
Space to organize my materials 38% 0% -38%
Quality and control of lighting 38% 67% +29%

Table 5. Limitations in Adjusting or Moving Classroom Furnishings by Classroom Type

How often did you find the following limitations in adjusting or moving classroom furnishings to meet your needs? Percentage Who Responded “Always” or “Frequently”
Student: Typical Classroom (n=377) Student: Learning Studio (n=215) Change Faculty: Typical Classroom (n=21) Faculty: Learning Studio (n=12) Change
Amount of time it takes 17% 12% -5% 52% 18% -34%
Needing to get permission 28% 8% -20% 15% 9% -6%
Conflict with other classes’ needs 18% 8% -10% 60% 0% -60%
Ease with which things move 22% 19% -3% 55% 9% -46%
Availability of power 19% 20% -1% 40% 18% -22%
Size of room 27% 20% -7% 60% 27% -33%

Table 6. Frequency of Adjusting or Moving Classroom Items by Classroom Type

How often have you adjusted or moved the following items in the classroom? Percentage Who Responded “Always” or “Frequently”
Student: Typical Classroom (n=377) Student: Learning Studio (n=215) Change Faculty: Typical Classroom (n=21) Faculty: Learning Studio (n=12) Change
Seating 27% 45% +18% 38% 45% +7%
Table 10% 22% +12% 34% 36% +2%
Whiteboards 3% 12% +9% 0% 17% +17%
Lighting 5% 9% +4% 24% 36% +12%
Technology location 5% 8% +3% 19% 0% -19%


Teaching is another construct studied in the Learning Studios pilot. The concept includes pedagogical methods and approaches to learning, instructional tools like technology, and classroom management techniques. To be effective, a teacher must orchestrate pedagogy, tools, and environment in a way that creates opportunities for students to learn. Classroom design should:

  • Make it easy for an instructor to synchronize those elements.
  • Be flexible enough to accommodate different teaching styles.

Results from the first semester of our pilot study indicate that instructors saw greater flexibility in the Learning Studios than the traditional classroom. They also perceived that the studio classroom offered a greater chance for them to be effective teachers. The stronger preference for the traditional classroom when it comes to using technology reflects the lack of adequate training for faculty before they were assigned to teach in the pilot Learning Studios. These results have already prompted the project team to consider how we can implement more discipline-specific, just-in-time technology training in the future.

Tables 7–9 summarize the survey results.

Table 7. Faculty Assessment of Classroom Design and Tool Integration by Classroom Type

Faculty Assessment of Classroom Percentage Who Responded "Strongly Agree" or "Agree"
Typical Classroom (n=21) Learning Studio (n=12) Change
The classroom supports my ability to teach effectively 38% 54% +16%
The classroom reflects my college’s commitment to my success in teaching 26% 75% +49%
The classroom encourages me to integrate a wide range of teaching methods 25% 75% +50%
I am able to effectively utilize available technology (projector, computer, video/DVD, etc.) in the classroom 63% 25% -38%
The classroom effectively supports student learning 40% 50% +10%

Table 8. Faculty Assessment of Flexibility of the Space by Classroom Type

Flexibility of Space Percentage Who Responded "Strongly Agree" or "Agree"
Typical Classroom (n=21) Learning Studio (n=12) Change
The classroom is flexible enough to support various teaching styles depending on the days’ needs 24% 59% +35%
The furniture is easy to reconfigure 5% 92% +87%
The layout of the classroom makes it easy to see all students in the room 62% 67% +5%
The layout of the classroom makes it easy to hand out teaching materials 53% 75% +22%
The layout of the classroom makes it easy to walk around the room and interact with students 19% 75% +56%
I often move or adjust furniture to support the way I like to teach 52% 58% +6%
I encourage students to move things around to enhance their learning 57% 66% +9%

Table 9. Faculty Frequency of Technology Use by Classroom Type

How often do you use the following technology as part of your teaching process? Percentage Who Responded “Always” or “Frequently”
Typical Classroom (n=21) Learning Studio (n=12) Change
Laptop 53% 18% -35%
Projector/digital display 52% 50% -2%
Sound recorder 10% 0% -10%
iPod/MP3 Player 0% 0% 0%
PDA 5% 10% +5%
Overhead projectors 24% 30% +6%
Whiteboard/blackboard 77% 67% -10%
Paper handouts 81% 75% -6%
Document camera 29% 34% +5%
Interactive whiteboard 5% 22% +17%
Video/DVD 28% 25% -3%
Course management 47% 58% +11%
Webcasting 10% 9% -1%


The third construct studied, learning, addresses the effectiveness of teaching, including pedagogical methods, classroom management, and tools and technologies used to influence and create learning. Classroom design should be flexible enough to support various learning styles and abilities.

Students reported a small increase in their ability to learn effectively, and a larger increase in their feeling of Butler’s commitment to their learning success, although these increases were not as dramatic as those reported by faculty. The students did report a strong preference for the furnishings in the Learning Studios. Despite some frustration with the instructors’ lack of knowledge in using the technology, students preferred the availability of and greater use of technology.

Tables 10–12 summarize the survey results.

Table 10. Student Assessment of Classroom Design by Classroom Type

Assessment of Classroom Design Percentage Who Responded "Strongly Agree" or "Agree"
Typical Classroom (n=377) Learning Studio (n=215) Change
The classroom supports my ability to learn effectively 61% 65% +4%
The classroom reflects my college’s commitment to my success in learning 48% 61% +13%
Classroom space effectively supports faculty teaching 61% 60% -1%

Table 11. Student Assessment of the Flexibility of the Space by Classroom Type

Flexibility of Space Percentage Who Responded "Strongly Agree" or "Agree"
Typical Classroom (n=377) Learning Studio (n=215) Change
The classroom is flexible enough to support group work of various sizes 51% 73% +22%
The furniture is easy to reconfigure 48% 83% +35%
The layout of the classroom makes it easy to see my fellow students in the room 46% 75% +29%
Technology in the classroom can be easily reconfigured for various learning needs 46% 68% +22%
I often move or adjust furniture to support the way I like to learn 40% 60% +20%
I am encouraged to move things around to enhance my learning 25% 54% +29%

Table 12. Student Assessment of Items Used by Classroom Type

How often are the following items used in the classroom to facilitate your learning? Percentage Who Responded “Always” or “Frequently”
Typical Classroom (n=377) Learning Studio (n=215) Change
Projector/digital display 45% 47% +2%
Overhead projectors 35% 33% -2%
Whiteboard/blackboard 78% 61% -17%
Paper handouts 79% 70% -9%
Document camera 6% 18% +12%
Interactive whiteboard 12% 19% +7%
Video/DVD 27% 25% -2%
Webcasting 5% 10% +5%


The final construct studied was engagement. An effective space should foster high levels of student-to-student and student-to-faculty contact to create active and collaborative learning. Results indicate that the Learning Studios provided greater support for communication between students and faculty as well as communication and group work among students. Also, both groups indicated that the Learning Studio represented a greater commitment by Butler to their success.

Tables 13–17 summarize the survey results.

Table 13. Student Assessment of Collaboration/Communication by Classroom Type

Collaboration/Communication Percentage Who Responded "Strongly Agree" or "Agree"
Typical Classroom (n=377) Learning Studio (n=215) Change
In the classroom, I am comfortable asking questions and contributing to the class discussion 68% 77% +9%
The classroom is effective for group work 48% 86% +38%
The classroom helps students effectively communicate with faculty during class time 63% 75% +12%

Table 14. Faculty Assessment of Communication by Classroom Type

Communication Percentage Who Responded "Strongly Agree" or "Agree"
Typical Classroom (n=21) Learning Studio (n=12) Change
The classroom supports student engagement in class discussion or lectures 30% 67% +37%
The classroom enhances my ability to communicate with students during class 19% 50% +31%
The classroom allows me to extend conversations with students outside scheduled class time 29% 33% +4%
The classroom allows me to get to know my students better 29% 41% +12%

Table 15. Faculty Assessment of Collaboration by Classroom Type

Collaboration Percentage Who Responded "Strongly Agree" or "Agree"
Typical Classroom (n=21) Learning Studio (n=12) Change
The classroom helps students collaborate with each other for their in-class group work 20% 83% +63%
The classroom helps me collaborate with students effectively during class time 19% 53% +34%

Table 16. Student Assessment of Community by Classroom Type

Student Sense of Community Percentage Who Responded "Strongly Agree" or "Agree"
Typical Classroom (n=377) Learning Studio (n=215) Change
The classroom conveys the appropriate image of my school to students 52% 71% +19%
The classroom makes me feel valued as a student 41% 66% +25%

Table 17. Faculty Assessment of Community by Classroom Type

Faculty Sense of Community Percentage Who Responded "Strongly Agree" or "Agree"
Typical Classroom (n=21) Learning Studio (n=12) Change
The classroom conveys the appropriate image of Butler to its faculty 29% 42% +13%
The classroom makes me feel valued as a faculty member 14% 42% +28%

Where Next?

One objective of our Learning Spaces project, the development of a college-wide comprehensive implementation plan, is still in the future. However, its outline is beginning to emerge. In light of our experiences building the student union in Andover and with the Learning Studios, it has become clearer to the project team that a learning space is any place where learning occurs, a concept that helps erase what the team is beginning to accept as a cloudy distinction at best between formal and informal spaces. The distinction, we believe, should be based on the array of technologies and furnishings necessary to support the intended purpose of a space.

Another objective, discussion of minimum standards, has centered on creating a typology defined by resource needs. We have not developed a specific typology, but a Type I space, for example, might require minimal technology and space design, while a Type III space might be very sophisticated. We need to determine how many space types will be useful, along with the specifications for each one.

Our pilot project involving four Learning Studios — two general-education rooms and two Nursing classrooms — continues in spring 2009, along with our study of the impact of the new student union at our Andover campus. We are also bringing several other projects on line, including:

  • Design of new spaces at our Agriculture facility in El Dorado
  • Creation of learning spaces in the lobby of our largest classroom building in El Dorado
  • Creation of spaces in the commons area of our residence halls
  • Development of the student life center at the Andover student union

Most of these projects are small in scale, focused on changing a specific, limited space. But we see them as opportunities to demonstrate how Butler can apply new ideas about space to improving our students’ experiences and to learn what does and does not work in a variety of venues. These projects will influence the development of our space design model, a set of formal standards and guidelines we would expect designers and architects to consult when they develop projects at Butler.

Dialogue on Pedagogy

The Learning Studios project has brought focus to our institutional dialogue on pedagogy, particularly how instructors could use space and technology to influence student engagement. What started as a project to develop guidelines and an implementation plan for engaging, state-of-the-art learning spaces has evolved into an investigation into the interaction of institutional practices, student behaviors, and environmental factors that can promote or prevent student success. In this context, we understand that our choices in the design of learning spaces can influence decisions that shape other institutional factors critical to student success. (In the sidebar The R&D Persepctive, author Gene George, research director and Learning Spaces project team member, discusses the broader impact the Learning Spaces project can have at Butler.)

In 2009, qualitative research continues into the experiences of students and teachers in both formal and informal spaces at Butler, including general-education classrooms, Nursing program classrooms, and a new student union at the college’s largest campus. As the discussion of results proceeds, we will use formal research to shape more effective teaching practices and engage practitioners in shaping space design criteria that can have the most impact on student engagement and satisfaction. In this approach, we intend not only to design better learning spaces but, more importantly, to build institutional capacity to enact a sustainable student success model through which we create value for our students.

Next Questions

Our research and development work will expand in 2009 to address these questions:

  1. What space-technology elements appear to have the most impact on student engagement? (We will identify specific features of engagement based on the Community College Survey of Student Engagement.
  2. How do those space-technology elements relate to specific pedagogies?
  3. How does the space design/pedagogy relationship change across programs, disciplines, and campuses?
  4. How does the space design/pedagogy relationship interact with other institutional practices that influence student engagement?
  5. How do those key institutional practices interact with factors of our students’ behavior and their socioeconomic background to promote or inhibit student engagement?

These questions form a framework for talking about the perception data we will collect in the pilot Learning Studios in academic year 2008–09. They will help us look for what we think may be significant patterns in the experiences of students and instructors in those classrooms. At this stage in our research, the questions are deliberately fuzzy. In the coming semesters, as we begin to drill down into the data, we will engage faculty, students, and other stakeholders to further define them. In our effort to marry research and practice at Butler, we hope to contribute to a greater body of knowledge and improved design standards for college campuses nationwide.

Gene George (ggeorge@butlercc.edu) is Executive Director, Research and Effectiveness, at Butler Community College.

Tom Erwin (terwin@butlercc.edu) is CIO at Butler Community College.

Briony Barnes (bbarnes@butlercc.edu) is research assistant in the Office of Research and Effectiveness at Butler Community College.

Gene George

Gene George is Executive Director for Research and Effectiveness at Butler Community College in south-central Kansas. He manages the college's institutional research and development, planning, KM and continuous improvement functions. His primary professional interest is in learning how the concepts of complexity and systems can be used to continuously build Butler's capabilities. His immediate focus at Butler is on building an Integrated Planning and Resource Allocation model. His broader research interest is the role human language plays in the evolution of social organization. Gene has a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas and has taught a variety of subjects, including Russian, English, journalism and applied statistics. Before working in higher education, he was a professional journalist.


Tom Erwin

Butler Community College


Briony Barnes

Research Assistant, Office of Research and Institutional Effectiveness
Butler Community College


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