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Education After Covid-19
Learning for the Future: How the COVID-19 Crisis is Challenging Our Thinking About Education Design
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, education facilities around the world have continued to have a presence – and have had to rapidly adapt to new ways of functioning. Many schools are open only to the children of key workers or are soon to reopen only to certain school levels, meaning that fewer students are being supported in physical learning spaces. Other students and teachers at both schools and universities have had to make the shift to home and online schooling, challenging traditional notions of the classroom and accelerating the identification and adoption of accessible and effective teaching technologies.
As schools begin to reopen – a move that is driven not only by the need for students to return to the classroom but also for parents to return to an “at work” environment – things look set to return largely to normal in the near future. “At dwp, we are questioning whether the challenges posed by the crisis may have a lasting impact on education design, from more flexible spaces that can expand and contract as needed to the implementation of more innovative technologies,” says dwp Design Director of Education, Scott Chapple.
“Architects and designers have been creating new paradigms for education facilities, moving vertically as land sizes decrease and providing multi-functional areas for teaching and learning,” stated an editor in a recent article on Indesignlive. “But, can they do more?”
The current crisis necessitates a new kind of thinking about education design, but changes will likely be made at individual schools and institutions, rather than across the sector as a whole. “We believe that most change will be driven by the specific teaching pedagogy at individual school sites and championed by principals and senior school executives, rather than a state-wide policy approach,” says Chapple. “Australian education, for example, is investing heavily in the Vertical Schooling model– a paradigm shift in delivering public education across multiple states.”
Whilst a traditional school would have generous open space, play fields, and landscape, vertical schools address the need for passive and active student breakout spaces in stacked high-rise urban settings with open terraces, atria and rooftops. The effectiveness for these vertical spaces to provide effective social distancing whilst allowing students to be students and staff to effectively teach will be tested in a COVID-19 era. “As city densification continues with increased populations in city centres, we need these vertical solutions to be effective and healthy places for teaching and for learning,” says Chapple.
“The importance and value of non-classroom spaces will have an even greater focus in a post-COVID-19 era.”
While the closure of many schools and universities has been an opportunity for construction, which generally can only take place in term breaks, many institutions are facing significant reductions in enrolment and income. Some online student polls suggest that beyond COVID-19 some international students will not return to study or will defer their studies, creating even more challenging financial situations for many institutions and threatening the viability of planned developments.
"The entire context in which we design has shifted and this changes what, how, and why we design from now on,” says dwp Regional Managing Director Australia, Michael Hegarty. “We have initiated a new program of work that we have named ‘dwp|imagine’ that seeks to keep us forward focussed and innovative in our thinking, and we will adapt to the changing needs of our clients and their project end users. Our cities have challenges of proximity and density to manage pandemics that will change the nature of urban space. Our dwp designers will learn the lessons of how spaces perform in a pandemic, including a priority being given to the wellbeing of occupants, cleaning regimes, flexibility and technical performance.”
At dwp, we believe that a post-COVID-19 world will be built on flexibility and the sharing of knowledge and expertise across sectors.
Education design may increasingly draw on the durable and hygienic material palettes and “low-touch” technology employed by the health sector, for example, or the innovative communication technologies and adaptable spaces that we implement in our workplace projects.
“Following COVID-19, there may be a relatively quick return to normal for much of the education sector,” says Chapple. “At
Maribyrnong Sports Academy
Bentleigh Secondary College Meditation & Indigenous Cultural Centre
Margaret Cribb Early Learning
dwp, however, we believe there are opportunities to transform the spaces and experience of learning for a better future based on the challenges faced in this recent crisis – and architects and designers will be crucial to realising this vision.”
What Could the Future of Education Design Look Like?
Outside the Classroom
As schools as tertiary institutions begin to come out of lockdown around the world, they are facing new challenges relating to social distancing. As a recent article in The Washington Post detailed, many schools are requiring students to wear masks and engage in new social distancing behaviours.
“If social distancing measures remain in place, this poses the question of how existing schools can be reimagined with spatial planning that encourages safe social distancing behaviour,” says dwp Design Director of Education, Scott Chapple. “If this results in fundamental changes to the way classrooms function, it also challenges our thinking around how new schools will be designed.”
As detailed in a recent article by Architects’ Journal, some schools have adopted an “outside classroom” approach, where not all teaching is done indoors. From pop-up classrooms on football pitches to a greater consideration of the principles of “forest schools”, this could transform the idea of what a school is. “Denmark is a showcase for returning to school much sooner than the rest of the world, and they have modelled their safe learning environment on having more outdoor classes,” says Chapple. “This approach is not transferable to all sites and communities, however. In sites where an internal learning environment is necessary, communal areas and circulation spaces may become more important, as they could offer the greatest opportunity for natural light and ventilation while minimising the risk of infection spread. It is essential that these environments still have equivalent access to technology, WiFi, power, and teaching aids.”
These kinds of spaces could potentially be informed by other sectors, such as cutting-edge flexible workplaces. The Glowfish Office coworking space in Bangkok, for example, features numerous connected break-out spaces and multi-purpose rooms that can be utilised by different users as needed.
A Digital Revolution
Across the world, students across all levels of education have had to embrace remote and home learning – and, as a result, digital learning and communication tools. “The COVID-19 crisis has created an upswell in the adoption of scalable apps that function as an intermediary between students and course content,” says dwp Design Director of Education, Scott Chapple. “These kinds of apps, such as Vygo, act as an interface between students and course providers or enable student-to-student mentor support – and they may become a more integral part of education. This could accelerate a move toward online study rather than bricks and mortar campuses, and will likely place an increased focus on ‘smart’ campuses.”
It is likely that the education sector will look to workplace design for inspiration, as highly connected, flexible office environments have been on the rise for some time. The dwp Headoffice in Thailand, for example, is a showcase of how technology can be successfully integrated into a workplace to enable more efficiency and productivity. “When the time came to move, dwp embraced the opportunity to walk the talk of digital transformation and become a showcase fully agile workplace,” says dwp Group Creative Director, Scott Whittaker. “The open plan office is designed to be creative and interactive. Fully wireless, the team is no longer tied to desks by a PC and cables – they can work independently or in groups anywhere in the office.”
During the lockdown, many universities have offered fee-free online courses to people looking for alternate pastimes during isolation, and there has been increased interest in free online courses, such as those offered by Massive Open Online Courses. “It will be interesting to see if the take-up of such offers continues post-pandemic,” says Chapple.
“Will it act as a catalyst
for a greater proportion
of the population seeking
to advance knowledge
and enrol in education?”
The Need For an Inclusive Future
While in many cases homeschooling has allowed students to continue to learn throughout the COVID-19 crisis, one area of education where it has become clear that remote learning is not a solution is the special needs sector. “Special needs education necessitates hands-on specialist educators, physiotherapists, speech pathologists, and other experts,” says dwp Design Director of Education, Scott Chapple. “Remote learning at home for those with special needs assumes that parents can replace this expertise and it is generally not the case. The pandemic is a crisis for students with special needs, and it is important that the education sector and the broader community considers how these challenges will be faced in any potential future scenario that may arise.”
Building the Future
As tertiary institutions begin to come out of lockdown, there is uncertainty around the continued enrolment and attendance of international students at many universities due to travel restrictions and increased anxiety around international travel.
“The overall position for international education is that it’s going to take a massive hit,” says Simon Marginson, director of the Centre for Global Higher Education at the University of Oxford. “I think that we’re looking at at least a five-year recovery period in terms of the global numbers of people who move between countries for education.”
Many universities rely heavily on international enrolments to generate income and are currently facing an unprecedented funding crisis. “As a result, capital works budgets that were previously set aside for new projects may have been reassigned to fund shortfalls elsewhere,” says dwp Design Director of Education, Scott Chapple. “This could translate into a delay on costly new-build projects and a move toward repurposing existing infrastructure with an increased focus on affordability in the coming years.”
Conversely, however, it will become more important than ever for tertiary institutions to distinguish themselves to prospective students – as Marginson puts it, international education will become “a buyer’s market”, in which universities will be “hunting for scarce international students for some years to come”. In a post-COVID-19 world, health security will be a major factor for students when choosing where to study, and many universities may be looking to designers and architects for smart and effective hygiene solutions that can be quickly implemented.
The Value of Key Workers
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced global communities to realise the true value of key workers, including health practitioners, teachers, and emergency workers – typically underpaid professions. “Some universities are recognising that there may be a groundswell in the demand for health-related courses in near future,” says dwp Design Director of Education, Scott Chapple. “As a result, institutions may choose to invest more heavily in these areas by positioning programs and buildings to support the growth in these areas.”
For designers and architects, this could see an increased focus on developing teaching spaces for these specific industries.
At dwp, our expertise across both the health and education design puts us in a unique position to genuinely transfer knowledge across these sectors.
The St Lucia Community Garden
Surfcoast Secondary College
Abu Dhabi Education Council School Design Competition
An unprecedented move to home schooling has challenged traditional notions of the classroom and accelerated the identification and adoption of accessible and effective teaching technologies.
At dwp, we believe there
is an opportunity to create learning environments with more flexible spaces that
can expand and contract
as needed and the implementation of more innovative technologies.
Hygienic Materials & Low Touch Technologies
Education design may increasingly draw on the hygienic material palettes and “low-touch” technology employed by the health sector, or the innovative communication technologies and adaptable spaces that we implement in our workplace projects.
Existing schools may need to be reimagined with spatial planning that encourages safe social distancing. This could result in a rise in outdoor classrooms, or learning in common areas and circulation spaces with good access to natural ventilation and light.
Increased competition for International Students
There will be increased competition between universities for international students. Health security will be an influential point of difference and a major selling point.
Focus on Health
There may be increased interest in health-related courses and universities may choose to invest more heavily in these areas – dwp’s global experience across health and education projects will provide valuable cross-sector expertise in this area of growth.
Visit our online Covid-19 Education Design resources
For more information on how dwp imagines the world of health and wellness in a post-COVID-19 world, contact dwp Design Director of Education, Scott Chapple – firstname.lastname@example.org or Group Creative Director, Scott Whittaker - email@example.com
The World of Education after Covid-19