Pop Quiz

What are we learning about current trends in higher education?

Question #1: Where are classroom trends headed?

As pedagogy in the classroom continues its shift from passive to active modes, what type of learning environment was most critical to the success of the Mack Hall project at Norwich University?

A. Large, face-forward auditorium spaces
B. Case study classrooms
C. Flexible, adaptable general purpose classrooms
D. Bespoke, technology intensive classrooms
E. All of the above!

Reveal Answer ...

E. All of the above!

Apologies for the trick question, but this was truly the case for Norwich University. All of these typologies were important to the success of the project, and they all support active and passive modes of engagement to varying degrees. The large auditorium is used for lectures, theater, music, panel discussions, movie nights, and presentations for as many as 400 people. The first 100 seats are separated from the balance of the room by a cross aisle, and provide tablet arms and power to each seat, allowing this space to be used as a more intimate 100 seat classroom. General purpose classrooms, light on technology and heavy on flexibility provide a resource for any department on campus. Case study classrooms with fixed tables and loose chairs, arranged in a horseshoe shape, support lecture, question and answer, discussion, and debate among students. More technology intensive classrooms and simulation labs, designed to support bespoke programs like Cyberforensics, Mobile Device Forensics, and Computer Science, are mission critical for this client.

In the end, the diversity of learning environments in Mack Hall gives Norwich University a robust and flexible resource that can respond in real time to a wide range of requests from faculty, administration, and students. There is no one size fits all solution, but rather the need to strike the right balance of types to fit the needs of the institution.


Click here for more information on the Mack Hall project. Is your institution grappling with how to scale your planning efforts to meet your needs? Contact us, and let’s start a conversation.

Question #2: How do you scale planning efforts?

With some clients we undertake a look at their whole campus, at once, to create a vision for the next 10 years or more. However, with many clients, we are working at a smaller scale, on a precinct of campus, a building, a floor plate, or a suite of rooms. With the cyclical nature of campus construction and a dependence on “summer slammer” construction periods we often help institutions plan for multiple smaller projects in a single building or precinct of campus. Which of the following has proven to be the most challenging issue to tackle with our micro-planning efforts…

A. Review of NFPA 241 requirements
B. Cost benefit of bundling multiple projects
C. Sharing spaces, programming and resources on campus
D. Conceptual cost estimating

Reveal Answer ...

C. Sharing spaces, programming, and resources on campus

All of the other issues listed above are manageable. NFPA 241 is a puzzle that we can work through with code consultants, CM/GC’s, and owners to solve. Making the case to bundle multiple projects in the same area to save on general conditions and design fees is straightforward when the Owner buys into a consolidated process. Cost estimating at a concept level requires thoughtful consideration of risk, escalation, and contingency, but is eminently achievable. The biggest challenge we face is when we are presented with an opportunity to consolidate program and make better use of space on campus. Sharing program elements such as meeting rooms, conference and huddle space, touch-down offices, collaborative work areas, classrooms, and seminar rooms will strike a nerve with most any campus constituent. This kind of space sharing remains antithetical to operations – either owing to how the space is scheduled, the resilience of departmental fiefdoms, or simply how things have always been done.

Breaking through this barrier to optimize space, create new opportunities and departmental synergies requires institutional will that looks beyond the confines of a given project to consider the needs of the institution writ large.


One of a handful of master service agreements, since 2012, Jones Architecture has worked with Northeastern University on over 90 design and construction projects and over 180 planning assessments. Other current house doctor contracts include: Cape Cod Community College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Massasoit Community College, Salem State University, Tufts University, and the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

Click here for more information on our house doctor work. Is your institution grappling with how to scale your planning efforts to meet your needs? Contact us, and let’s start a conversation.

Question #3: How do you create a sense of place?

When a campus is intertwined with dense urban fabric, its identity appears co-mingled with the city itself. When confronted with this, how do you create a sense of place, arrival, and identity for the institution? Recently, during our work with the New Hampshire Institute of Art (NHIA) in Manchester, NH, we used all but which of the following strategies…

A. Identify and work with potential community partners
B. Establish a campus wall, enclosing a new Quad
C. Develop unified landscape and signage solutions
D. Create exterior plazas and lawn areas as gathering spaces

Reveal Answer ...

B. Establishing a clearly defined wall, enclosing a new Quad

Rather than create a walled precinct clearly owned by NHIA, we worked with the Institute to identify and develop strategies shared with key partners – UNH-Manchester, Manchester Historic Association, Manchester Cultural District – to name a few. Some relationships are envisioned as curricular, and others as physical space sharing or co-branding opportunities through unified landscape and signage solutions. Exterior gathering spaces are conceived both as urban spaces for Manchester residents and visitors, as well as the campus community. Truly a team effort, Crowley Cottrell was a key player in this design process, as evidenced in the building and streetscape study below.

The vision plan embraces the city of Manchester and the community to create a shared identity rather than segregating the Institute from its urban context.

Click here for more information on the NHIA planning effort. Want to discuss how your institution connects town and gown? Contact us, and let’s start a conversation.

Question #4: Are there differences in specialized academic libraries?

We recently worked on a medical school library, and seized that opportunity to look at a half-dozen peer institutions and add them to our database. Interestingly, the biggest difference between medical school libraries and general academic libraries was…

A. Significantly longer operating hours
B. Lower percentage of group study seats
C. Strict no food policy
D. Higher percentage of carrel seats

Reveal Answer ...

D. Higher percentage of carrel seats

Interestingly, contrary to trends in general academic libraries where we are seeing a decline in carrels, this quiet (silent!), individual study continues to dominate medical school libraries.

Our interviews with faculty, students, library administration, and hospital staff indicate that this remains the predominant study modality, even while medical schools are moving to team-based learning settings in the classroom.


Want to see how your medical school library compares to peer institutions? Contact us, and let’s start a conversation.

Question #5: How does your library stack up?

Since 2006, institutions of higher education have seen a change in the quantity of available library seats as it relates to enrolled full time students*. Is it a:

A. 7% decrease
B. 2% increase
C. 5% increase
D. 12% increase

Reveal Answer ...

C. 5% increase

Average quantities in the libraries older than a decade that we have surveyed is 15.3%. In libraries dating from the last decade, this ratio increases to 20.6%.

On a campus of 5,000 students, a delta of 5.3% equates to 265 seats.

Want to see how your library compares to peer institutions in these bar graphs? Contact us, and let’s start a conversation.

Question #6: What does it take to compete?

Over the past couple years, one of the least important things to our clients in their active learning classrooms has been…

A. flexibility of use (changing modes)
B. proliferation of technology (projector, document camera, team based flat screens)
C. simplicity of controls (lighting, daylight controls, technology)
D. the squeak of dry erase markers and the hum of discussion

Reveal Answer ...

B. Proliferation of Technology

Technology is an important part of active learning. However, our interviews with faculty and students alike indicate that the ability to change modes on the fly, readily control and access features of the room, and create a setting for group work trump what is often perceived as technology for technology’s sake.

Flexibility with furniture and technology, to move quickly across various pedagogical modes as shown in the diagrams below is critical for today’s learning environments.

Do your classrooms support these trends? Are you hearing other requests from your faculty and students?

Let’s start a conversation.

Question #7: Where do students sit?

In the last 10 years, the blend of seat type has shifted in academic libraries. The seat type that has seen the largest decrease has been…

A. Carrels
B. Work Stations
C. Soft Seating
D. Open Tables
E. Group Study

Reveal Answer ...

A. Carrels

Carrels and individual study remain an important part of the academic library experience. Many students still thrive in this setting. However, it is increasingly marginalized by the trend toward collaborative work, group projects, and “together but separate” social learning.

Very recently, we have been witness to some reaction to open collaborative work areas, in the form of quiet or “silent” floors or rooms. Additionally, we have seen emergence of new furniture types such as the Steelcase “brody” chair which appears to want it both ways – out in the open, yet individual and private!


Concerned about the seat type blend of your library? Want to see how your blend might compare to some of your peer institutions? Contact us, and let’s start a conversation.