NUAS Facilities & Environment Conference 2022

NUAS (Nordic Association of University Administrators) is a Nordic network whose Facilities & Environment team focuses on the sustainable development of university campuses and learning and working environments. The SYK Accounts and Leases team participated in the NUAS 2022 Facilities & Environment Conference 2022 in August 2022. Read below what the team thought of the event.

In the conference, hybrid teaching emerged as a key theme in discussion concerning teaching environments.

The pandemic accelerated changes in learning environments. Digital environments have become inseparable companions of physical spaces. Marie Leijon (University of Malmö) and Åse Tieva (University of Umeå) have studied new learning environments and introduced the HyFlex Model of implementing functional and interactive teaching situations in a hybrid setting. Traditionally, hybrid teaching has been considered appropriate for lecture-type of teaching. However, it is not known how it has succeeded so far. According to researchers, there are not enough of study results regarding the effect of hybrid teaching on learning for the time being.

Hybrid or remote teaching is not believed to replace old models of teaching and learning. No space is inherently good or bad, and traditional lecture rooms and auditoriums still have their place on campuses. The means to make the use of learning spaces more efficient are improving their flexibility and ensuring the availability of digital tools. The conference identified the emerging trend of diversification of teaching. There should be alternatives available for diverse learners and teachers.

The implementation of new learning environments requires both time and resources. The changes require investments into space modifications, equipment and manpower. Support services for systems and teaching play a key role in the process. The teaching staff must be offered enough training – not forgetting the students either. A change always means de-learning old norms. Pilot spaces where teacher can practice and try out new environments and systems were considered a critical element of a successful journey towards hybrid models. It is also important to involve the IT and teaching technology staff in the discussions right from the beginning.

For many years, SYK had been involved in piloting different learning environments at universities. Together with the universities, SYK has enabled innovative learning spaces in the DEMO projects. See SYK demos in the Demo Library.

The future of campuses in a hybrid world – spaces for different needs

The future of campuses in a hybrid world challenges us to identify the needs and operations of universities on a new level. To be able to meet these needs, we must understand how the campus facilities can drive the success of a university and what role do the learning space play in the students’ commitment the university community. In addition, we need to understand how to create facilities on future campuses that support the students’ need to contact professors, even when the professors work remotely two days a week. Or how downsizing campuses due to the current trend of developing hybrid spaces still leaves enough development opportunities for future needs.

The number of businesses on campus increases as facilities are used more efficiently. On some campuses, where SYK operates, facilities no longer used by the university have leased to businesses. This has benefited both the university and the businesses. Although university campuses are believed to become more diverse in the future, it was concluded that physical spaces on campuses still play a key role.  Holistic well-being and sense of belonging are more important than ever after the pandemic. In addition, universities must operate more consciously in the future taking into account the well-being of the entire campus community. Food will be important in the future too, as restaurants bring students and staff to the campus. A good campus is an unreplaceable place of social encounters.

The highlighted need to work either on campus or remotely is a challenge for the owner of university properties

When discussing the development of working environments, the emphasis was on vacant working spaces and their leasing costs for the university. The staff responsible for the facilities talked about the university personnel’s highlighted need to hang to an office on campus as well as the need to distribute one’s workload either on campus or as remote work.

At the same time, the ongoing discussion on the underuse of teaching facilities and the extensive need to modify them leads to the conclusion that in order to invest in the change and ensure the further development of vacant spaces, the owners of university propertied must obtain an in-depth understanding on the fast pace of the change as well as on the latest developmental trends of necessary hybrid environments and future research regarding both teaching and working spaces.

Understanding changing needs is more important than ever for the future of hybrid campuses

By in-depth understanding of the customer’s needs, we are able to offer the best possible solutions both financially and efficiently using existing solutions. This means investments are allocated more efficiently and sustainably.

In the future, students will need the framework of physical space and community to be able to feel as part of the academic community. Spaces and places, buildings and campuses are the foundation of that experience and they also maintain a feeling of security and at their best, support socially responsible and sustainable future property management policies. It is often beautiful to see how campuses contribute to the identity and image of a university.

The Accounts and Leases team found the conference highly rewarding. The versatile conference programme and interesting discussions sparked brainstorming on this autumn’s facility solution and campus strategies where short and long-term plans are drafted for each university campus.

Wishing you a lovely autumn,

Elina Hulkkonen, Esko Ollikainen, Hanna Saario, Jessica Örn, Johanna Lehto, Kaisa Pitkänen ja Mervi Huhtelin

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