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Analyzing Smith's learning spaces to accommodate collaborative learning and a growing student interest in STEM

Smith College Learning Space Utilization Study and Seelye Hall Renovation

Smith College
Northampton, MA
Space Planning
Completed 2017

In 2017, Sasaki conducted a learning space utilization assessment for Smith College to determine existing utilization of instructional spaces, including classrooms, teaching labs and events spaces, and identify opportunities to better leverage Smith’s resources.

The study was prompted by Smith’s need to accommodate evolving academic trends and teaching and learning styles, informed by technological advances, an emphasis on applied and collaborative learning, and a growing student interest in STEM courses.

Guided by stakeholder interviews, the assessment was geared towards understanding scheduling practices and needs, and academic space and technology limitations. Sasaki reviewed Smith’s space data, course schedule information, and building routes to determine space utilization over time (by hour and by day) both overall and by individual room, as well as the utilization and occupancy rates by room size and room ownership. In addition, Sasaki designed a custom map-based survey tool for stakeholders to rate their qualitative perception of every learning space on campus. 

Further analyses included the distribution of classroom hours by department, station sizes by room size, and right-sizing. Using the Optimizer tool, Sasaki was able to compare the overall demand for classrooms (enrollment), against the supply of classrooms by room capacity (total seats). For event spaces in particular, Sasaki analyzed daytime versus evening use of each space, in addition to measuring utilization by room, building, and event type. The initial analyses informed scenario models of Smith’s learning space supply and demand, modified to optimize enrollment in rooms of appropriate capacities, and to meet a target utilization range.

Findings from the utilization study informed the subsequent phase of work, the Learning Spaces Plan. The Learning Spaces Plan included a full physical assessment of all learning spaces on a room by room basis, two surveys including a pedagogical survey, as well as a program accommodation strategy that included the creation of a dedicated maker space.

Following these first two phases of work, Sasaki was then engaged in a renovation of a classroom in Seelye Hall. Based on the learning space plan principles, the renovated classroom will allow students and faculty to interact easily and naturally and be able to move easily throughout the entire classroom, as well as support multiple learning activities such as lecture, discussion, group work, and performance. Additionally, the revamped space will provide ample writing, projection, and other surfaces to allow for sharing of ideas and information and allow technology to work seamlessly when used in learning activities and easy to set aside when not needed. 

For more information contact Tyler Patrick.

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