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The Sticky Campus: Why Education Is Getting ‘Social’

At a time when nearly everything is online – including lecture notes and research material that could previously only be found at the library – it’s more important than ever to create campuses at which students actually want to spend time. Such is the importance of this issue that a term has even been coined to define it: The Sticky Campus – a place where students choose to be rather than have to be.

The Sticky Campus: Why Education Is Getting ‘Social’

It’s all well and good for university students to be able to catch up on a lecture online if they can’t attend (or, as is often the case, choose to sleep in) but the experience of learning is greatly enhanced by listening, interacting and socialising. Chances are that, if students actually attend a lecture or tutorial and then discuss it with their peers afterwards – whether that’s over a latte at the campus café or lounging on the university lawn – they will feel significantly more engaged with the topic; lodging it further into their brains and arousing greater curiosity.

Social interaction simply cannot be underestimated when it comes to learning and, vice versa, to teaching. Professors will have a much better chance of assessing their students’ understanding and interest in a subject if they can read their faces and ask or answer questions in person.

The challenge then lies in creating campuses that entice students away from the usual distractions of TV, play stations, shopping centres or, in sunny climes like ours, the beach. So how are universities responding to this task? By creating environments that are more akin to these places that lure students away. And this presents the A+D sector with an enormous opportunity, as the education world turns to us to create more landscaped ‘green spaces’ and sociable built environments, with interiors that are more luxurious and less utilitarian. More like what we are used to seeing in the residential sector and commercial settings such as cafes and restaurants, where young people choose to hang out and socialise.

When it comes to the interior spaces, companies like Living Edge – one of Australia’s foremost design destinations for architects, interior designers and design enthusiasts – are perfectly placed to help. In fact, they already are. In addition to representing some of the world’s most iconic furniture brands, such as Eames and Herman Miller, Living Edge is very well versed in managing large-scale commercial projects including schools and universities. Its services include everything from design and space planning to CAD and product specification through to delivery and installation: A one-stop shop for ‘zhoosing’ up your campus.

And the outdoors? One company who stands out is Aspect Green, the landscape architects responsible for delivering the Alumni Green at UTS – a campus which (right in the midst of Sydney city) was crying out for some greenery! The new area is divided into three distinct zones – The Garden, which provides an outdoor study space and table tennis area amongst trees and garden beds; The Heart – a communal paved gathering spot, and The Green – a raised lawn which sits above part of the library and is framed by a concrete wall that doubles as bench seating. Since its completion the entire space has been hugely popular and proved a fantastic vehicle for encouraging students to stick around after and in between class.

More and more, universities are realising that they can’t just offer the same old cluster of functional buildings – all science labs and lecture halls. At least, not if they want to attract and retain the best calibre of students. Like it or not, education (especially at tertiary level) is very much intertwined with, and enhanced by, socialising; And so now the education industry needs ours – to help create spaces that provide this mix, the perfect sticky campus.

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