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From Learning Commons to Learning Communities: Examining the Role of Mixed-Use Learning Zones in Millennial Education

Transform Grant Research Project

Title: From Learning Commons to Learning Communities: Examining the Role of Mixed-Use Learning Zones in Millennial Education
Research Team: Sheila Bosch, Ph.D. EDAC; Jason Meneely; Margaret Portillo, Ph.D.; Candy Carmel-Gilfilen; Nam-Kyu Park, Ph.D.; Maria Sanchez; Elizabeth Calienes, Robert Norberg, Abhinay Alakshendra, Jessica VanderBiezen, Jessee Anderson, Brandon Barnett, Mike Bosch, Jennifer Harrison
Institution: University of Florida

Research Summary

The role of interior design in higher education has perhaps never been more important than it is today. New approaches to pedagogy and a generation of students who expect a less didactic and non-hierarchical learning experience have compelled administrators to rethink their facilities. New directions include “mixed-use” spaces supporting a wider spectrum of student-based engagement. Therefore, this study sought to explore student reactions to mixed-use learning environments intended to better support millennial ways of thinking and doing.

Using mixed methods, we found evidence that helped explain the transformation of learning environments on campus. To share these insights, we are proposing the “Mixed-Use Learning Environments Typology” that captures the impact of this transformation with four categories:

  1. “Pride and Purpose Places” which define the college or university’s professional identity and mission that is expressed architecturally or in signature spaces;
  2. “Pro Zones” which allow for networking and professional development;
  3. “Nested Learning Spaces” which support active learning in redefined classroom and lecture spaces, as well as in areas for dedicated teamwork and individual study; and
  4. “Chill Zones” offer social spaces or places to take a break or continue working, while also helping students feel a part of their university, college, or program community. 

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