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Preparing Educators for the Future of Learning

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), driven by extraordinary technological advances, is changing the way we learn, work and socialise. For many, Google has overtaken the landscape of education and disrupted traditional paths of learning. Today, education is not simply about knowing facts or what is in the books, but extends its reach into social development, and being aware of the world’s demands that exist beyond the insular confines of school.

The crux of learning lives on

How can schools and specifically, private educators, leverage on the affordances of the 4IR and ensure their work rightly responds to the needs of its students? Recognising the need to adapt to changing demands in the education sector, our client – a long-standing global name in the private education sector – engaged Paperspace Singapore for a Workplace engagement and Design consultancy project.

The goal for our client is to redesign their staff room such that their Smart Working infrastructure and guidelines can be seamlessly implemented within the refurbished office. At the same time, the global asset team looked to incorporate specific “wish-list” demands from users within the space. We spoke to the teachers, regional and shared services functions housed together on the same floor and here are some of the insights gathered.

1. The advent of technology has changed the way offices are designed to serve

Focus Groups outcomes with the 3 main teams in the Staff Office. More flexible, collaborative and social spaces have been asked for in the future office to support their work needs.

Work patterns have shifted tremendously and the office is no longer seen as the only place to get work done. Teachers are having more small-scaled Skype and Conference calls, and often only enter the office if they need to conduct classes. Hence, the office today needs to be seen as a quick-stop to contain short spurts of focussed and collaborative work. Going beyond, there is an emerging need for the office to enrich the employee experience. Strides towards well-being and health are highly advocated for, such as having biophilia within the workspace, shower rooms, wellness facilities and meditation spaces.

Design SolutionsLong-stay and short-stay desks were introduced to provide more choices for staff.Long-stay desks are parked in a corner on the floor plan, and convenient short stay desks by the window, nearer to the entrance with an intent to guide overall circulation.Through the workplace engagement, the request for a specially dedicated faith and well-being room was reiterated to support the multi-cultural needs of its diverse staff members. A closet room near the shower was also added after multiple requests, as the majority of employees were avid exercisers.Enclosed phone booths and focus pods were newly included to manage noise levels in an open floor plan.

2. The future of education will be even more collaborative

With the vast amount of information at our fingertips, how do you encourage open knowledge sharing within the workplace when the natural reaction is to simply Google? We found that learning is in the blood of educators, and their ideal space is one where colleagues can learn naturally through seamless collaboration. This workspace must be able to accommodate post-class adrenaline, facilitate regular informal conversations and internal meetings.

The design idea then became the breaking down of invisible walls by putting people across functions together in one place. If a teacher is researching a certain topic and happens to sit across from someone in another function with interest and knowledge on the topic, they might have this great conversation and new ideas are sparked.

Design Solutionsvariety of social spaces in the floor plan was introduced, such as a shared hub, collaboration pods, and enclosed meeting rooms of different sizes targeted at more formal meetings.A stakeholders engagement session was also conducted with representatives across all functions before the final concept design was signed off. The purpose of the session was to help users of the space land on a common understanding behind the office layout, how the spaces are expected to be used, and to address any questions they might have had.

3. Working and socialising are increasingly interdependent

Photo for illustration. Image credit to Peter Molick Photography.

Gone are the days of traditional curriculum planning within the teaching function. Development of materials now takes place locally, sometimes across functions, with final coordination with the global team. This also means jobs can feel insulated from reality especially if all work takes place via a screen.

“The role can feel very isolated when I can work from home 100%. Sometimes I come to work to talk to people.”, one focus group participant shared.

Educators, despite contact time with students and parents daily, need to find collegial support and have their social needs met. It is important there are dedicated spaces within the staff room to facilitate social get-togethers and events, allowing the culture of the company to take shape.

Design SolutionsAn open pantry encourages people to gather and be social. That is where you will find the latest coffee machine and essential kitchen equipment for lunch boxes.Banquette seating was introduced to enhance casual, café vibes together with brightly coloured loose furniture to jazz up the fun. Compared to the small, holed-up pantry before, this open space can also be easily converted to hold a larger crowd for celebrations and events, raising levels of excitement and enthusiasm for a day in the office.

With the impact of the 4IR, we see the future of work constantly evolving alongside the future of learning. Institutions and people do not respond to technology advances in the same way, and for our client it was important to draw constant references to their Smart Working guidelines to ensure consistency in global adoption. How culture, policies, workplace design and technology infrastructure shape the way educators work will impact the way learning is received for our next generation.

It is always an exciting journey to realize a client’s vision of how an office can best serve its people.

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