Campus Learning Spaces: Investing in How Students Learn

Stephen R. Acker, Ohio State University - Main Campus
Michael D. Miller, University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

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NOTE: At the time of publication, the author Michael D. Miller was affiliated with University of Michigan - Ann Arbor. Currently, January 2008, he is the Dean of Library Services, Robert E. Kennedy Library, California Polytechnic State University.


To justify the substantial investment in bricks-and-mortar construction, colleges and universities must design and continually renew the physical spaces in which students learn. A variety of research studies document that today's students learn differently than did many of the faculty now teaching them and that the design of learning spaces can favor or disadvantage various ways of learning. Campus planners are challenged to build flexible interior spaces so that buildings with 100-year life spans can continually adapt to new generations of learners and our new discoveries of how people learn. Without this capacity to modify the learning environment, institutions put themselves at a disadvantage in attracting and educating contemporary students.

New learning space design paradigms must adapt to student learning styles while still being mindful of the institution's need for fiscal efficiencies. Previously, the cost savings associated with large lecture halls, fixed seating, and minimal investments in technology drove decision making. Today, the emphasis is more balanced, and the roles that attractive learning spaces play in bringing the most accomplished students and faculty to campus and in increasing student engagement with learning are better recognized. This research bulletin describes the active, visual, collaborative learning processes preferred by a growing percentage of the incoming student body as determined by the Felder-Soloman learning-styles inventory, and then provides strategies for designing classrooms, libraries, and informal learning spaces to respond to those demands.