5 Trends Shaping the Modern Campus

June 13, 2018


The vast majority of today’s college students have never known a life without YouTube, Wikipedia and auto correct – yet they’re being educated in environments created long before any of these innovations became the norm. Campus buildings built before 1975,1 heating and cooling systems from the Reagan era, and classrooms, study spaces, and meeting areas that are too cavernous or too cramped to promote present-day learning.

It’s not a pretty picture.

To remain competitive, academic institutions must evolve, and quickly. Space and resource management has become more vital than ever in helping universities manage aging facilities while keeping tuition affordable. But where do you begin when trying to achieve this delicate balance?

To guide your evolution, it’s important to look at current trends in classroom and shared space design and utilization to understand what’s working elsewhere and where campuses are headed. Using this insight, you'll be able to strategically apply new approaches and technologies that will equip you to meet these challenges head on.

Here are five trends shaping the growth of dynamic institutions:

Top Five Trends in Campus Optimization

#1: Schools are consolidating their academic and event scheduling into a single platform. 

These days, campus spaces are flexible, multi-purpose areas that host a wide range of activities. In a single day, one space might host a class in the morning, a staff meeting mid-day, a student group in the afternoon, and a community event in the evening.

The scheduling platform has evolved to accommodate this diverse set of scheduling needs. No longer restricted to simply a specific classroom or event scheduling tool, it has become a consolidated, centralized system that improves coordination among events planners, academic schedulers, facility managers and even campus safety officials. These individuals are eliminating time-consuming and manual processes, not to mention the risks of double-booking, by connecting all their calendars into a single, unified platform.

#2: Schools are tracking utilization and applying the data to improve space efficiency. 

With rising campus construction costs showing no signs of slowing down, higher education institutions are constantly searching for ways to keep real estate costs low. One solution is to make the best use of the facilities they already have, and space utilization and tracking reports are at the heart of this process. By collecting these types of data, campus planners are learning which spaces are used most often (or not at all), and then using that information to guide space management decisions in more cost-effective ways.

As a result, institutions are rethinking their overall campus design in favor of more optimized spaces. A century ago, nearly three quarters of all campus space was used by a single department or for specific purposes; now that figure is just 50%, according to Sightlines’ 2016 report on the State of Facilities in Higher Education. More importantly, better insight is helping administrations reduce the amount of classroom space needed without reducing the number of classes they offer. And other schools are going even further by taking advantage of utilization data to lease unused spaces to non-campus groups or to monetize lockers and parking spaces.

#3: Schools are integrating data systems to remove manual processes and data inconsistencies.

Student information systems. Communication technology. Food and catering systems. Human resources and user account management. You have a multitude of different resources operating on your campus, and it can be a challenge to get them to work together. Integrating these critical systems with scheduling data on a single platform is helping making campus management much easier. When they can automatically share data and independently communicate with one another, you can cut out duplicate entries, dated information and other inconsistencies.

This integration into a single platform simplifies complex processes such as invoicing for catering and notifying facilities management about room needs. On the output side, consolidated reporting from these multiple systems increases transparency into usage – leading to significant improvements in your campus’ efficiency and productivity.

#4: Schools are using real-time scheduling information to manage facility systems.

“As with all enterprises that maintain buildings, colleges are subject to increases in utility costs that often exceed budget plans. For campuses with expanded physical facilities and buildings that may not be energy-efficient, this factor can be fiscally crippling.” – The Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education2

The commission’s findings above may have occurred roughly a decade ago, but campuses still face these challenges when it comes to controlling utility costs. It makes sense that heating and cooling systems should only be used when facilities are occupied, but for many schools, turning these systems off and on is a manual process based on a printed schedule that can quickly become outdated and incorrect.

The solution? Schools are now connecting their HVAC systems directly to their scheduling platforms, allowing for automated, real-time programming. Not only does this save time for campus staff, but it eliminates money spent on wasted resources. And it doesn’t have to come at the expense of the user experience; universities can set lights to come on or the heating or cooling system to kick before a scheduled class or event so that participants are immediately comfortable upon entering a space. Some schools are even upping their system efficiency through occupancy sensors and beacons, which identify when a space is vacated and then modify utility settings accordingly.

#5: Schools are embracing mobile technology to facilitate on-site communication and scheduling.

Remember earlier how we mentioned that today’s college student has never known a world without YouTube? The same can be said for cell phones, and campuses are embracing this mobile technology in ways previously unimagined. They are increasingly offering more mobile reservations for academic and event scheduling, whether through a smartphone app or a mobile-responsive web page, so that anyone with permission who wants to reserve a space can do so from anywhere, without needing to contact a facilities manager.

This type of reservation system is also being extended to the use of technologies such as digital room signs outside of classrooms, study spaces, and athletic facilities, or kiosks that provide helpful information and aid students in locating the spaces they need with tools like indoor wayfinding. Not only does this improve the visitor experience on campus, the modern touch helps attract more students to the university.

Unbox Your Campus

A modern campus – one that values connectedness, collaboration and flexibility – features three key characteristics. It creates efficiency through campus-wide connectivity, where all components work together to ensure operations run as smoothly as possible. It inspires and empowers students, faculty and staff to easily find and use the spaces they need for learning and collaboration. And it ups productivity by simplifying the complex processes of scheduling classrooms, exam spaces, study areas, facilities, event spaces, and more.