What initially began as a listening exercise to understand the pandemic from our clients' point of view has burgeoned into a belief system, a framework for our practice, and most importantly, a driving force for sweeping change across the industry.
what we found
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The events of 2020 shone a spotlight on vulnerabilities, putting the higher education industry in jeopardy barring systemic change. But the narrative doesn't end here. Help us write the next chapter of the evolution of campus.
From a new student experience to working on campus, DLR Group’s quantitative and qualitative data paints the picture of what’s happening on and around campuses coast-to-coast.
And it defines what’s next for institutions as we navigate the evolution of campus together.
Academics + Learning
Equity + Justice
Through hundreds of personal conversations, we captured the current realities facing institutions nationwide.
5 million students represented
Global Higher Education Leader
Finance + Enrollment
Academic Medical Center
recent media + upcoming events
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Deans, Provosts, or Professors
Facilities and Planning Staff, or Campus Architects
Student Life and
4-Year Private Institutions
4-Year Public Institutions
Academic Medical Centers
Journal of Commerce
By Jackie Eckhardt
The evolution of campus, a new normal for higher education
© DLR Group 2021
Rich in Black History
but Long Underfunded, These HBCU Campuses Will be Preserved
SCUP North-Atlantic 2021 Regional Conference
March 19, 2021
Yogesh Saoji Presents:
What We’ve Learned and What’s Next; Creative Approaches and Lessons from Urban Universities.
and Shawn Gaither
Addressing Mental Health and Implementing Holistic Wellness on Campus.
and Troy Glover
Building a Path Forward: Overcoming Pandemic Impacts on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
talk with students and faculty
Program Popularity is Turbulent
Nursing and health science programs and science and engineering continue to grow significantly. The arts are experiencing notable shrinkage.
Top 3 Things
You Can Do Now
record shifting space use
track and plan
Institutions are re-evaluating student and faculty needs, which are driven by expectations about the campus experience. Parameters for time, accessibility, and flexibility will collectively re-shape the environments for learning and research.
Understand how students want to learn in the future. Forge a partnership, and begin discussions about “where/when do you do your best work?” and “what is physical and what is virtual?”
in academic space needs
and functional shifts
across campus to guide
you in space utilization
Track and plan
for tendencies in evolving
stress adaptability and
flexibility where possible
(e.g. outdoor space for
learning and social
activity; conversion of
Hybrid learning is here to stay.
Institutions must find ways to create virtual experiences that are as good, if not better, than in-person experiences to remain competitive and relevant to learners.
LEARNING IS FUN
Sophomore Davis Holtz shares why in person
learning means more to him now , and his hope for future higher education outcomes.
Tiered Spaces are Out
Mid-size classrooms and large flat flexible spaces
are more desirable, while open gathering spaces are
repurposed for physically distanced learning and
Faculty are Lagging
Faculty success in transitioning curriculum delivery
methods is dependent on the individual’s energy
and motivation to engage and grow beyond the
“business as usual.”
Higher Education Leader
Sophomore, Davis, shares why in person learning means more to him now, and his hope for future higher education outcomes. Hosted by Jackie Eckhardt, higher education leader at DLR Group.
Learning is Fun: In Person vs. Online Learning
Elementary Education student, Kennedy, opens up about remote learning and the challenges of technology - and why in-person is still her preferred method of learning. Hosted by Gretchen Holy, interiors leader at DLR Group.
The Challenges of Remote Learning
It’s about hybrid learning—prioritizing space to support continuous hands-on learning and research—not basing priorities on class size and availability.
The Learning Space of the Future
Reshuffle Learning Space Needs
Ramifications of the pandemic have taught us that learning has - and will - rapidly expand beyond the traditional classroom. As more and more courses shift to online or hybrid learning, students are faced with the challenge of where to attend these virtual lectures, labs, and study groups. And as safety protocols have removed the majority of student academic life outside the classroom space, students are struggling to find their desired study and collaboration spaces on campus.
build business partnerships
add graphics in an integrated way
Asynchronous learning has created an amazing opportunity for students to balance learning opportunities with their personal needs, whether they are working to afford their education, looking after family, or are experiencing transportation limitations to campus. Now is the time to design our campuses to make these virtual environments a true success.
No longer stack or place chairs in the corner of an un-used classroom or storage closet. Students need a safe and comfortable place to participate in online learning on campus. Seating must be safely distanced and easily cleanable, and if a power outlet is nearby, students will use the space for success!
Find new and creative ways to operate by strengthening relationships with local businesses and organizations. Join forces with businesses to foster real-life learning for students.
Implement a graphic design solution that uses economical materials such as vinyl or paint on walls, floors, and other surfaces to offer visual cues for how users should occupy space per recommended guidelines. For long-term solutions, integrate materials in a holistic manner.
This is our opportunity as designers to fully understand the benefits of a hybrid learning model. Technology has led our world in a direction toward a very different work and learning environment. We should not shy away from change, but rather embrace it to create healthy environments where educational spaces encourage spontaneous dialogue between people of different backgrounds and expand the world around us as we know it.
Higher Education Design Leader
Think Beyond the Building
Campuses facilitate strong relationships between architecture and sociology. They have the ability to provide spaces that influence people’s behavior and have significant impact on our future leaders. In many cases, a student's campus experience is the time to build character by learning from a diverse network of peers, exploring new passions, and living indepedently. Plus, the campus itself provides a safe transition from home to the workforce.
Keep Safe with Materials
As institutions transition back to some degree of in-person instruction, the ability to maintain social distance in the learning environment will be critical. Public and interior spaces that integrate visual cues for distancing will assist students, faculty, and staff observe recommended practices today and in the future.
There are creative ways to embed interior and exterior environments with cues about social distancing and the appropriate use of space that can enable a safe return to campus. Institutions should seize the opportunity to refresh and bring new life to spaces on campus that would benefit from new materials and graphics and consider layering in a technological approach to support those strategies.
The adaptation of the built environment will play a critical role in the future of learning, student success, and access to education for all. At this pivotal junction, institutions must think beyond traditional delivery models and the typical classroom, and embrace technology in a way that connects the world in a seamless exchange of knowledge sharing for our next generation of students.
Rethinking Design Now, For the Future
A Laser Focus on Design in Higher Education
The redesign (right) of stairway signage highlights a subtle shift in lettering placement, leading to socially distanced up/down lanes of foot traffic.
plan early, and plan often
Integrated Planning is Vital
Higher education business models and operations are shifting to redefine education's value as we move toward a more resilient future. When institutions practice integrated planning—financial, environmental, facilities, student success, academics, and curriculum—planning becomes part of their culture. It aligns all campus stakeholders to work toward a single vision. Especially important in moments of uncertainty, the planning process must incorporate scenario planning to anticipate possible outcomes and how they might impact a college or university.
Engage with campus stakeholders now. Create open dialogue to identify the aspirations, ideas, questions, and fears of vested constituents around the return to campus, and transform those concepts into viable change management strategies.
Identify room types that may be less desired or not essential once faculty, staff, and students return to campus. Envision large lecture halls and private offices as hoteling workspaces, mid-size active learning spaces, or online learning support spaces. Unused lobbies, wide corridors, staff offices, and conference rooms can all be adapted to provide additional touch-down space for students to attend class virtually.
Inventory outdoor space to transform into programmed academic, event, gathering, and study space. Ensure shade and protection from wind to create comfortable environments.
Higher Education Design Leader, DLR Group
Design Leader, DLR Group
Campus Environment is Suffering
A space planning lens enables institutions to make data-informed decisions. Space planning can proactively inform college and university leaders and assist with difficult operational decisions as people and programs return to campus. And as campuses continue to evolve, many institutions are taking this opportunity to categorize facility space accurately, unify space databases, and assess facility conditions and fit-to-program or space adequacy– all as groundwork for facility renewal and capital planning to remain relevant to future generations.
Campuses Aren't Able to Scale
As campuses begin to reopen, and with a greater emphasis on enrollment changes and hybrid learning environments, many institutions are gearing up to change how space is utilized. In the coming years, the number of students and faculty onsite will fluctuate, requiring campuses to analyze the entire inventory of physical buildings. Also, many institutions are adopting no-net-new-square foot policies, resulting in space types being reimagined to better serve the needs and the activities of the campus of the future.
Design Leader, DLR Group
Campus outdoor space offers important amenities, including access to nature for mental health and well-being, fresh air for disease prevention, gardening areas for food production, and gathering space that is flexible to meet social distancing requirements. To better utilize outdoor environments for all campus needs colleges and universities are exploring the capacity and capability to host outdoor events, instruction, and reflection space. While the use of outdoor spaces is gaining popularity among campuses nationwide, investments in supportive landscape such as permanent support structures, flexible furnishings, shading, solar heating, IT access, and appropriate lighting must be considered for both students and the surrounding community to enjoy.
Repurpose Green Space on Campus
Planning is preparation; it gives institutions the tools to embrace an ever-changing world. Effective, engaged, and integrated planning doesn't propose to guess the future; it empowers colleges and universities to be adaptable and resilient during uncertain times. It eliminates old norms and promotes a decision-making culture and campus experience that is more collaborative and innovative.
Planning for a Resilient Future in Higher Education
National Trust for Historic Preservation Pilots HBCU Grants
connect, lead, and solve together
One common theme from 2020 - that continues to be relevant today - is the desire to embed equity into the decision-making process. To ensure a continued focus on EDI, institutions are creating or re-imagining leadership positions and are integrating EDI into curriculum. Many institutions are also dedicating space to cultural organizations to create a home and support system for those who are underrepresented on campus.
cast a wider net for involvement
add more access to technology
As our society continues to evolve and change, higher education campuses are the spaces and places to have civil discourse. The campus itself is an important background setting for these conversations. I'm motivated by this work each day – to create environments that support students both academically, and socially.
Create a forum to discuss the inequities of the campus environment. Lead conversations around the campus and how it represents students' culture and values. Identify solutions to expand this representation.
Involve all campus users - students, faculty, staff, and surrounding community - in conversations around policing and create transparency in decision-making around the policy.
Create socially distanced computer access and online learning rooms on campus to support students who do not have supportive learning environments at home.
Leigh Anne Jones
Higher Education LEader
Campus Resources at Risk
For years, higher education students have experienced insecurities with technology, housing, and food. However, the pandemic exposed an alarming volume of need. The events of 2020 unveiled the actual number of students who rely on the physical campus and its offerings to live and learn. In response, many institutions have expanded food pantries, set up WiFi connectivity hotspots for remote learning, and offered housing to at-risk students.
Visuals on Campus are Not Inclusive
The collegiate campus must continue to evolve as the student population diversifies and changes. And it must be designed in a way that welcomes students from all backgrounds and serves all students equally. Expanding public art initiatives is one way to showcase more inclusive and representative pieces that connect students to their environment and educate all campus users about different cultures and identities.
Justice + Civic Design Leader
We must act now - as a community college; we need to take the lead.
Dean, Community College
Campus Police In Need of Change
Campuses and cities are working to create two-way partnerships with police officers to change their relationship with law enforcement. On many community college campuses, public safety programs are responsible for training future law enforcement officers. This education is a proactive measure to better train police officers and diversify leadership in police departments.
As equity and social justice issues have taken center stage in higher education, campuses can be the catalyst for societal change. Students are demanding action, and institutions are responding.
Planning for Equity in Higher Education
An inclusive design process for the new Institute of Black Culture and Institute of Hispanic and Latino Cultures at University of Florida led to true consensus among all stakeholders.
University of Florida Cultural Institutes
identify champions of change
Utilization Goes Under
the Microscope (Again)
With continued and increased pressure to maximize utilization of space on campus, the questions now are: How much is enough? Where can we be more effective with our real estate?
identify unique worker identities
engage in the what-ifs
We are finally experiencing a great awakening to align our workspaces to the tasks of the actual work performed and the culture of an institution and its departments.
Identify your champions
of change and invite
them to a deep dive into
the future of workspace
For those that are returning at any capacity, create identities
based on their work
tasks and styles (not
Dive deep into engagement with your champions about what you need today, and what you were missing before. How can the results of your worker identities allow for some new and innovative components of your workplace?
Through engagement, we will learn the best alignment of faculty, staff, and space. There is no longer a one size fits all for space utilization, but instead a customized approach to position each individual for success while also enhancing the campus experience.
Higher Education Design Leader
Higher Education Leader
Environments Are Misaligned
Determining the optimal workplace environment(s) is key to our campus futures. What are the elements that allow our workspace occupants to do their best work?
Once a new way of working has been identified, how do we support a new way of assigning space? Hint: its how not why you work.
The future workplace will focus on meaningful collaborative and social environments where people come together for intentional
reasons. Experience of place will become king as teams come together to engage in dialogue, socialize with one another, meet with their mentor, and hope for that moment of serendipity that has been missing in an all-remote world.
Global Workplace Design Leader
Projected Future Remote Working for a 4-Year Institution
For most, the pivot to remote working and teaching was seamless and revealed that some tasks can be provided remotely, possibly indefinitely. This remote-renaissance has paved the way for us to think deeper about the value and purpose of work environments across campus. Workspace may no longer be assigned based on title alone, but more acutely aligned with the tasks needed for occupants to do their best work.
the future of academic workplace is how, not where, you work
From Title to Task Oriented Work
Instituting a “Door is Always Open” Approach to Academic Offices www.dlrgroup.com
Limited Access to the Lab
Developing technologies enabled the work to relocate to people versus people going to the work. With time on their hands, investigators wrote more - grants and papers - flooding the pipeline for administrative processing and peer review, and impacting quality.
support the disadvantaged researcher
close the gender and minority gap
Being conservative is no longer an option when searching for the next big idea. Taking risks in approaching scientific research is yielding tremendous outcomes.
For a stronger, resilient business model with job-security for postdocs of all walks, build inter-institutional and private corporate relationships to balance bumpy-demand economies.
Academic institutions can create an infrastructure to ensure equity in the workforce, via childcare solutions, flex work arrangements, increased funding for early career researchers, and monitored allocation of teaching and service loads.
Funding agencies can develop women and minority funding opportunities encouraging diversity, and empowering academic institutions to monitor breakdowns in hiring, promotion, and tenure.
Diminished Casual Collaboration
The creative process has been hindered. The accidental collisions and collaborations that occur while on campus by necessity became less frequent, less scheduled, and more intentional.
Future Workforce in Jeopardy
The pandemic has disproportionately affected early career scientists, postdocs, and minority researchers. This emerging situation is coupled with limited funding to support postdocs’ continuation of work, should they try to stay in their positions longer than they had intended. The hardest hit have been women and minority postdocs.
Following March 2020, papers quadrupled in quantity, mostly related to COVID-19. In Fall 2020, non-COVID-19 related papers continued to increase.
Moving forward, the academic research community is set to rethink the business of research, building in resiliency to support the increasing need for a knowledgeable pipeline of early career scientists, postdocs, and trainees for the future of science.
an opportunity for the great reset?
Time of Disruption
The Global Impact of Resilient Research Communities www.dlrgroup.com
Health and medicine
Physical sciences and engineering
Social sciences and economics
An analysis of papers submitted to Elsevier journals between February and May found that all scientists sent in more papers, on average, but the growth in submissions from male authors was highest.
Increase in paper submissions 2019-20 (%)
As research continues to evolve to changing processes and requirements, adaptable laboratories that allow for easy reconfiguration are not just a trend, but rather a requirement.
Global Science + Technology Leader
The balance between enrollment, finance, and capital planning was directly correlated to institutions’ return-to-campus status in fall 2020. Most institutions that operated at 100% virtual experienced a decrease in enrollment, acknowledged an uncertain financial future, and were triaging capital asset preservation. The offering of online education without an on-site campus experience led many students to question the value of their education. Meanwhile, most institutions that opened to in-person or hybrid mode sustained or even increased enrollment, came close to or struck a balanced budget, and although capital plans slowed and some priorities shifted, they were staying the course.
offer on-demand education
Major Tuition Overhaul
71% of institutions are re-evaluating their tuition and fees to strengthen their value proposition.
rethink underutilized space
re-evaluate technology budgets
The careful balance between enrollment driving revenue and financing has never been more essential. The need to provide a robust online engagement in combination with an on-campus experience is crucial to financial success for operational and capital expenditures.
Focus on education quality and meet students where they are. On-demand platforms provide access and flexibility for the most equitable education experience.
Assess space utilization across campus and rethink underutilized dedicated spaces. With budgets being tightened and campus square footage in high demand, prioritizing the use of space on campus and in person is essential.
Look closer at technology budgets for projects currently underway and planned for the future, with a special consideration for hybrid learning and work spaces.
Higher Education Leader
Capital Planning Change of Pace
For 25% of institutions, capital plans were moving forward with no change and 38% are temporarily on hold, while 18% were on a freeze or hold indefinitely.
enrollment, finance, and capital planning
Connecting the Dots
We can eliminate barriers to enrollment by meeting students where they are in their lives – in their careers, families, economic times, their struggles and adventures. Education is a two-way street and rather than the historical method of institutions saying come to us, meet them in the middle, or better yet go to them.
Higher Education Leader
100% Virtual Learning = Enrollment Decline
Most institutions that only offered virtual learning experienced a significant enrollment decrease, which led to reactionary solutions instead of strategic problem solving.
College students don’t want to take classes from their parent’s basement, we need to provide hybrid choices and a safe way for them to learn on campus.
Dean, Four-year Public Institution
Institutions’ brands are rooted in their student experience.
Campuses that retain and expand safe experiences will attract more students and better faculty. Geared toward incoming students, our research shows that bringing students together fosters support for academics and enhances student well-being.
create a safe campus home
Food Access is an Unmet Need
bring in-person back
Being apart taught us the value of being together. In-person connection is fundamental to the well-being of every student, teacher, and campus community member. Campuses are built to provide education but attended to experience life through social, physical, mental, and emotional connection. Institutions that can harness these experiences as their brand will evolve and thrive.
Offer virtual access to on-campus services: mental health, career counseling, and financial aid are increasingly needed and should be expanded. Develop a program to interview students for insecurities, including housing, food, and health services.
Consider innovation through delivery service models or decrease long-term density of dining areas. Design indoor areas that balance distance and safety with manageable congregation in lower densities. Plan outdoor areas for socialably-safe dining.
Provide events that can be controlled for safety but allow for social connection. Create guidelines for in-person connections that are easy to follow and accommodate. Leverage technology to increase the service delivery model.
Higher Education Leader
Inherent in the arts is a need for gathering. Shared experience in dance, theater, and music is fundamental to arts education. As students return to campus in a safe way, we hope to see creative expression blossom as we begin to assemble for rehearsals, performances, and discussions.
Culture+Performing Arts Design Leader
Student Housing Suffers Instability
Housing insecurities exist everywhere, but are being overlooked on campuses because housing demands were still met or exceeded amidst a reduction to single occupancy quarters. Although institutions are evaluating the effects of this and other code of conduct shifts triggered in 2020, relaxed on-campus living requirements do not make for a safe and equitable home for all.
Limited to no on-campus dining occurred early to accommodate emergency management, forcing campus populations to rely on vending and grab n’ go options, or delivery for minimal contact services. The reintroduction of to-go dining widened the accessibility to healthy options, yet brought trash and single-use plastics to an astonishing use. Looking forward, how can Auxiliary Services, Facilities, and Sustainability Coordinators evaluate the proper balance of maintenance and operations with student access, safety, and green initiatives?
Live Events are Essential to Culture
Building up and maintaining a successful brand on campus inherently requires a physical presence – but institutions have been forced to rethink the scale and security effects of bringing the community together. Without live events, in-person connection, and sociably-safe options, the true campus experience will fail.
In this episode of the Athletic Business Podcast, host Andy Berg talks with DLR Group Principal Don Barnum, who leads the firm's Global Sports Studio. In a wide-ranging discussion on the future of stadium and arena design, Don offers insights on how collegiate sports venues could become multipurpose facilities to serve entire campuses.
The Athletic Business Podcast: Ep. 24 Sports Facility Design Post-COVID-19 with DLR Group's Don Barnum
In this episode of the Athletic Business Podcast, Andy talks with Don Barnum, the head of DLR Group’s global Sports studio. In a wide-ranging discussion on the future of stadium and arena design, Don offers insights on how the pandemic, as well as spectator preferences are changing the way architects, operators and fans think about and interact with the sports venues that host our favorite pastimes.
The Athletic Business Podcast: Ep. 24 Sports Facility Design Post-COVID-19 with DLR Group's Don Barnum 27:28
LISTEN TO FULL PODCAST HERE