About the Learning Space Rating System

About the Development

The Learning Space Rating System (LSRS) provides institutions with a way of measuring how the planning, design, and support of their learning spaces encourages active learning. The LSRS Team intends that the system be used to assess the potential of physical environments to enable a spectrum of active teaching and learning engagements. The rating system enables institutions not only to examine the effectiveness of their own facilities but also to benchmark their environments against best practices within the higher education community, and thereby enable all 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 active learning,
  • assist in assessing the performance of learning spaces once in use, and
  • provide a guide to adapting existing spaces to institutional need.


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.


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 based on the number of points achieved. Leading examples include BREEM in Europe, Australia's Green Star, and the U.S. 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 this Learning Space Rating System are to ignite a similar enthusiasm for the importance of active learning as a core value and to generate adoption for a system that can improve space performance in support of learning.

The green building rubrics (e.g., LEED, Greenstar) have shown that 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 active learning.

We present LSRS version 2 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 2.

Notes on LSRS version 2

In the process of preparing version 2, the LSRS team made the following decisions regarding structure, criteria, and assessment of the instrument:

  • Retain the focus on formal learning spaces. The LSRS team actively 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. Our exploration revealed that informal learning spaces are highly variable in design, intentions, and contexts. In light of this, the LSRS team decided to retain the focus on formal learning spaces for version 2.
  • Evidence for credit section. With version 2 we introduce specifications concerning the evidence that must be produced in order to award the point(s) for that credit. The requirements in all of these sections are inclusive, that is, that 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 the version 2.
  • 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 and operations process. Sections 4, 5, and 6 address specific features of physical spaces. Accordingly we have divided the sections into two parts:

    Part A: Institutional context, planning, support, and design considerations
    • Section 1: Integration with Campus Context (ICC)
    • Section 2: Planning and Design Process (PDP)
    • Section 3: Support and Operations (SO)
    Part B: Environment, furnishings, layout, and technology
    • Section 4: Environmental Quality (EQ)
    • Section 5: Layout and Furnishings (LF)
    • Section 6: Tools and Technology (TT)
  • Scoresheet. We hope that the community will employ the scoring instrument and, by reporting back on findings, continue to help refine it. As was the case in the first version, version 2 of the LSRS scoresheet distinguishes between types of credits: some credits allow points for meeting one of several criteria, whereas other credits require that several criteria be met. Each section is weighted differently, and the number of credits in each section varies with the content, so the actual points value per section differs.

    The rating instrument includes different ways to accumulate points, corresponding to the four different types of credits within the rating system:
    1. 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)
    2. Credits that include subcriteria, all of which must be met to get the associated point(s) (e.g., Section 3 Credit 3.1 Support)
    3. Credits that include subcriteria which 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)
  • Benchmarking: We intend the version 2 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 2 contributes its findings to the LSRS project.

Community Input

We invite you to share your comments on version 2 of the Learning Space Rating System and the scoresheet.

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