Flexible, Technical, Mission Centered: EMS 2017 Campus of the Future Forum

September 12, 2017


Last month, EMS Software held its first annual Campus of the Future Forum (COTFF). The Forum served as an opportunity for campus professionals (such as Provosts of Academic Affairs, VPs of Student Affairs, Directors of IT, and Registrars) to come together to discuss current and future campus strategies and initiatives. While EMS played a role in organizing the event, the conversations focused on broader trends, current projects, lessons learned, best practices, and future aspirations.

The 2017 Forum, held August 8, was hosted by Harvard University. Attendance was strong for an inaugural event, over 60 attendees, and institutions included University of New Haven, Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, Fitchburg State University, and University of Baltimore.

Designing the Campus of the Future, Now

The 2017 forum featured a presentation and tour from Harvard and concluded with a series of group discussions. Harvard’s presentation, Reimagining Learning Spaces: Bridging the Past and the Future, Recent Space Renovations at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, started by introducing four themes guiding their campus redesign strategies:

  • Mission centered – all spaces are for education
  • Flexible – adapt to different teaching styles and uses
  • Technologically integrated – intuitive and flexible
  • Respectful of history while planning for the future

Below are two completed examples of their current redesign initiative guided by the themes.

The Hauser Grant Project

Sharalee Field, Senior Planner for Science at Harvard, presented some of the university’s initiatives to create low-cost renovations for flexible teaching spaces. As an example of their work, Sharalee discussed the university’s Hauser Grant project, a redesign initiative of a 2500 sq. ft. space in the Science Center. The mission was to create an experimental ‘black-box theater’ classroom (SciBox 1.0)  – “an innovative, experimental learning space inspiring creative approaches to teaching.”

The resulting unadorned space was flexible and able to support multiple modes of teaching. Most of the furniture and technical resources like smart TVs and laptop stands were on wheels to allow faculty and students to manipulate the furnishings according to their activities. To power it all, electrical outlets were placed throughout the room, including within the cement floor. For more information about the SciBox 1.0 project, watch this video.

Harvard Hall 202

Another project highlighted at the forum  was lecture room number 202 within the renowned Harvard Hall, built between 1764 -1766. The goal was to create a space that provides flexibility and updated technology to help support a greater range of teaching methodologies while preserving the sense of the history and prestige the famous Hall deserves.

Post-remodel, the room has been stripped of the static seating and speaker platform to make way for mobile whiteboards, wheeled furniture, modern lighting, ceiling speakers, and acoustical ceiling and wall panels. The room features wired and wireless presenter microphones, wireless video presentation capabilities, an assistive listening system, AV touch panel control system, motorized window blinds, and a projector and electric screen with split screen capabilities.

To preserve the historic feel of room 202, the old carved door wells, wall columns, molding, and window sills were preserved. Alongside the modern finishes of new furnishings, lighting, and fresh paint, the room has a sophisticated look and feel. In total, a complete transformation from a legacy lecture room to a dynamic, wired learning space.

Flexibility and Technology are the Future of Higher Ed

After the presentation and tour by Harvard, attendees sat in small, open discussion groups. Some conversations focused on budget, some on technology deployment, while others centered on barriers such as established faculty being apprehensive to move away from lectern teaching and adopt flexible teaching methods in configurable classrooms. But all were clear, the resounding themes for the Campus of the Future were flexibility and technology to support the mission of education.

We thank Harvard University for hosting the 2017 forum and all the attendees for their participation. If you are interested in attending the 2018 Forum, please contact [email protected]

To learn how the EMS scheduling platform enables a flexible, technological campus, such as Harvard, contact us at 800.440.3994 or schedule a demo today.