About the Learning Space Rating System
The Learning Space Rating System (LSRS) provides institutions with a way of measuring how the planning, design, and support of their learning spaces encourages multiple modes of learning, especially active learning. The LSRS Team intends that the system be used to assess the potential of physical environments to enable a spectrum of teaching and learning engagements. The rating system enables institutions not only to anticipate the effectiveness of their own facilities but also to benchmark their environments against best practices within the higher education community. The LSRS also provides institutions a way to measure their progress toward meeting strategic goals for their campus classrooms. Finally the LSRS, by providing a common point of reference, enables all community members to advocate for more effective learning spaces.
We intend the LSRS to
- guide the planning and design of learning spaces;
- objectively measure a design’s strength to support multiple modes of learning;
- assist in the planning for the development and evolution of an institution’s formal learning spaces; and
- provide a guide to adapting existing spaces to institutional strategic priorities.
The initial (or beta) LSRS version was released in 2014, and version 1 followed a year later in September 2015. Work on version 2 began in the latter half of 2016, and version 2 was released at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. Work on version 3 was initiated in late 2019 and released in September 2020.
The concept for the rating system was inspired by the success of environmental assessment rating systems to promote sustainability in the planning of buildings, interiors, schools, and neighborhoods. These systems, while differing in details, share the same basic approach: they provide a set of design criteria that award a facility a ranking or score based on the number of points achieved. Leading examples include BREEM in Europe, Australia’s Green Star, and the US Green Building Council’s LEED system. These green building rating systems have been widely adopted, and achieving a target rating is often a strategic goal for the adopting organization, community, or institution. The systems have helped achieve a common language and standards for assessing sustainable architectural and engineering designs. Our goals for the Learning Space Rating System are to ignite a similar enthusiasm for the importance of inclusive learning as a core value and to generate adoption for a system that can lead to improved space performance in support of learning.
The green building rubrics have shown that the idea of the “neighborhood” can contribute to a building’s success as a sustainable structure. For example, the LEED system’s rating structure can award a rating from interior designs to an individual building or even a campus precinct, thus acknowledging sustainability practices that cut across many buildings, such as the use of green cleaning chemicals. Similarly, we have structured the LSRS to go beyond the technology and furnishings of classrooms and encompass a very broad sense of classroom design, one that includes factors such as support, funding, and alignment with the strategic institutional directions. All of these factors play a vital role in encouraging successful learning.
We present LSRS version 3 and invite the participation of the higher education community in the continuing improvement of this instrument. Rating system development can take years of collaboration between professionals, industries, and organizations. The LSRS team hopes to engage the wider higher education learning community in the development, testing, and refinement of version 3.
General Notes on LSRS Version 3
In the process of preparing version 3, the LSRS team made the following decisions regarding structure, criteria, and assessment of the instrument:
- Retain the focus on formal learning spaces. In preparing version 3, the LSRS team explored the option of extending the rating system concept to informal learning spaces. Our exploration revealed that this would present a broad set of challenges, due mainly to the wide variability of informal learning space contexts, even at a single institution. In light of this, the LSRS team decided to retain the focus on formal learning spaces—spaces centrally scheduled and designed for face-to-face meetings of all course participants—for version 3.
- Evidence and verification. With version 2 we introduced specifications concerning the evidence that must be produced in order to award the point(s) for that credit. We have retained this in version 3, although the section is now called “verified by.” The requirements in all of these sections are inclusive—that is, all of the evidence called for needs to be produced.
- Reference to standards. Where other standards are accepted practice—such as those for environmental quality, acoustics, or lighting standards—we have referred to these in version 3.
- Structure of the credit sections. Planning learning spaces is a collaborative and communal undertaking among instructors, learners, administration, technologists, facilities personnel, and planners. Only by working across the institution can planners sustain a campus environment that treats learning spaces holistically and provides an ecosystem to sustain instructors and student success in their use. Because approaching learning spaces at the institutional level requires coordination across multiple groups, LSRS sections 1, 2, and 3 measure institutional readiness and the development of a planning, support, and operations process. Sections 4, 5, 6, and 7 address specific features of physical spaces. Accordingly we have divided the sections into two parts:
Part A: Campus Context, Planning and Design, and Support and Operations
- Section 1: Integration with Campus Context (ICC)
- Section 2: Planning and Design Process (PDP)
- Section 3: Support and Operations (SO)
Part B: Environment, Layout and Furnishings, Technology and Tools, and Inclusion
- Section 4: Environmental Quality (EQ)
- Section 5: Layout and Furnishings (LF)
- Section 6: Tools and Technology (TT)
- Section 7: Inclusion (IN)
- Scoresheet. We hope that the community will find value in the scoring instrument we provide and, by reporting back on findings, continue to help refine it. The rating instrument includes different ways to accumulate points, corresponding to the four different types of credits within the rating system:
- Credits for which a learning space must meet the single criterion to get points (e.g., Section 1, Credit 1.1 Alignment with Campus Academic Strategy)
- Credits that include a set of criteria, all of which must be met to get the associated point(s) (e.g., Section 3 Credit 3.1 Support)
- Credits that include sub-criteria that are successive, where one must first meet the criteria for the first point before seeking credit for the second point (e.g., Section 4 Credit 4.4 Lighting Control)
- Credits that are non-successive, so that the scoring of one criterion is independent from the others (e.g., Section 3 Credit 3.4 Faculty/Instructor Development)
- Benchmarking. We intend the version 3 criteria to be tested and further refined over time by the learning space planning community, and we hope the system will be benchmarked against attributes of spaces that are performing well. Our communal and combined knowledge will expand and mature as each institution that tests the version contributes its findings to the LSRS project.