Student Retention Starts With A Sense of Belonging
The world of higher education is dramatically changing. With recent enrollment declines, it is now more crucial than ever that higher education institutions transform into places where students aspire to be. This translates into learning environments that are inspiring, stimulating, and flexible enough to serve different styles of instruction, learning, and interaction. And beyond supporting the academic journey, these spaces also must be designed to foster a sense of belonging and help students rediscover the value of human connection.
In-person opportunities will always be the most impactful way for students to connect with peers, faculty members, and a campus culture that make the college experience so rewarding. While these activities typically took place in designated spaces such as the cafeteria, library, student union, and gyms, more common areas such as corridors and other open expanses need to be fully leveraged to provide more opportunities for impromptu engagement and interaction.
Campuses need to integrate more comfortable areas that invite social connection by:
- Adapting existing spaces such as cafeterias and libraries to become more multi-purpose.
- Utilizing in-between areas, such as corridors and stair landings as “sticky” spaces that turn chance encounters into opportunities for further dialogue and collaboration.
- Use open in-between spaces as opportunities for spontaneous discussion zones after class.
- Reinvent dining areas and library spaces to become multi-functional.
- Provide a variety of settings to allow small and large groups to collaborate or for students to work independently.
- Offer a blend of soft seating, standing-height tables, stools, and mobile tables that encourage further peer interaction and smaller social gatherings during off-peak dining hours.
- Furnish these spaces with movable whiteboards to allow ideation and create temporary dividers.
According to a recent Gensler research, 51% of students and 56% of educators want the option for remote (or distance) learning in the future. Higher education institutions will need to evolve from offering only a single optimal learning experience. To engage all students in the vital collaborative activities needed for applied learning and real-world skill development, highly flexible, tech-enabled spaces will need to be made available to accommodate interaction between groups of on-campus learners and virtual participants at the same time.
These collaboration areas must now be:
- Able to safely accommodate a group of students collaborating face-to-face and be adaptable to support a hybrid model that involves virtual and in-person learners simultaneously.
- Be completely tech-enabled and agile, allowing for flexible configurations using existing furniture within the same space.
- Offer technology such as reliable Wi-Fi and strategically placed cameras, microphones, and display monitors throughout collaboration zones.
- Incorporate easily moveable seating, reconfigurable tables, and mobile display units to provide ultimate flexibility and choice for engagement.
Safco offers a comprehensive collection of furniture solutions that enable higher education spaces to better engage students and promote a positive campus culture. With highly agile and purposeful products that can be acquired quickly and affordably, Safco helps transform learning environments into spaces that ensure every student feels supported and connected.