The University of 2050/The Experiential Classroom

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

A student’s experience within the classroom, K-12 or higher education, is very similar to the learning experience of the twentieth century. The classroom of 2050 will incorporate advanced technologies, collaborative spaces, and project based learning. This will allow for the classroom to provide learning experiences that benefit student retention, productivity, and teamwork skills. Between 2023 and 2050, there will be many technological advancements; however, our vision of 2050 will focus on the application of augmented reality and virtual reality within the classroom setting.  In addition, the design of collaborative spaces may change; however, our vision will explore biophilic design and adaptable classroom furniture.  

Augmented & Virtual Reality[edit | edit source]

In the classroom of 2050, Augmented and Virtual Reality technologies will be a key part of the educational experience. The ability this technology has to take users into a customizable virtual space opens up endless possibilities for education, making it an invaluable tool in the classroom of 2050.

Countless studies show that visual explanations allow students to gain a deeper understanding of concepts (Bobek & Tversky, 2016)[1]. The natural evolution of this approach of teaching involves leveraging AR and VR to craft educational content. By 2050, these technologies will become more user-friendly, realistic, and cost-effective—integrating seamlessly into the daily lives of students, akin to laptops and tablets. The incorporation of virtual reality into educational establishments has already commenced, one example being in the University of Virginia where it’s being used in the School of Medicine. The University of Virginia's School of Medicine is leveraging virtual reality (VR) to enhance students' perspectives during live observations. In their words, "The proposed VR educational model offers trainees a better view of both the procedure itself and the attendant diagnostic screens during their first-person/second-person hybrid observance experience. In addition, learning aids, such as anatomical models and other visual guides that are not typically available in live observances, are available within the VR training space, furthering students’ comprehension of the procedure" (Moody, 2022)[2]. Due to virtual reality's capacity to present content in ways not achievable within the confines of a traditional physical classroom, it will become a valuable teaching tool for the class of 2050.

Another significant application lies in overcoming the constraints of physical spaces. By the year 2050, simulation of diverse class environments will reduce the need for extensive physical infrastructure in educational institutions. This breakthrough will prove invaluable, particularly for specialized classes requiring lab equipment or specific setups. The substitution of physical tools with virtual counterparts will empower universities to operate with fewer classrooms, as each space can flexibly accommodate various purposes within virtual environments. Beyond infrastructure enhancements, AR and VR tools offer a revolutionary means of connecting students and teachers across different classroom locations, enhancing the overall educational experience. Research has demonstrated that while remote learning has its pros, its primary downfalls is the limited interaction between students and teacher, leading to suboptimal learning environments (Maqableh & Alia, 2021)[3]. Advancements in AR and VR technologies by 2050 will enable a high-quality education, breaking down geographical barriers and making education more accessible to all.

Collaborative Spaces[edit | edit source]

In 2023, collaborative learning spaces have become increasingly popular for classroom design, as there has been a shift from singular rows of desks to shared space tables. Cornell University (2023)[4] found that “the benefits of collaborative learning include: development of higher-level thinking, oral communication, self-management, and leadership skills, preparation for real life social and employment situations, and increase in student retention, self-esteem, and responsibility”. In order to foster collaborative learning, classroom design has become a main priority.  Smith System is a furniture design company that has specialized in designing collaborative school furniture. They have developed a design where “ trapezoidal and arc-shaped desktops could be clustered in very compact circles of six to eight students for group work. Or, the desks can be separated for individual study or testing” (Smith System, 2023)[5]. In 2018, The University of Virginia incorporated collaborative design spaces into their new project, the Link Lab. Engineering Dean, Craig Benson, stated, “I believe the Link Lab is the future of higher education, when students and faculty will work and learn together in open, collaborative spaces” (Mather, 2018)[6].The Classroom of 2050 will embrace collaborative design by building upon existing designs presently in use, supported by the researched benefits of collaborative learning.  This model will be applied to both higher education and K-12 classrooms and will improve student’s experiences by enhancing collaboration and building student relationships.

The Classroom of 2050 will also incorporate biophilic design. Biophilia “proposes that most humans have an innate love of nature” and biophilic design is “an applied solution to appease this desire for nature by integrating natural elements and processes into the built environment” (Gillis, 2018)[7]. Biophilic design can be applied to classrooms and has been found to have many benefits for students.  Research has shown that a biophilic classroom reduces anxiety and stress, resulting in “students being more at ease and ready to accept new information” (Chelmu, 2023)[8].Chelmu (2023)[8] also found that “biophilic design elements resulted in test score gains up to three times higher than in years without such enhancements”). A study conducted by Daly, Burchett, and Torpy (2010)[9] found that “classroom plants consistently led to improved performance in spelling, mathematics, and science.” This study was conducted in Brisbane, Australia on Year 6 and 7 students, with a total of 360 participants in 13 different schools. Daly, Burchett, and Torpy (2010)[9] found “in two of the schools, significant improvements were found with plants present, as compared with classes without plants, with increases of between 10% and 14%.” A study by Mahrous, Dewidar, Refaat, and Nessim (2023)[10] set out to “identify the biophilic design attributes that can potentially contribute to enhancing the students’ level of satisfaction.” This was completed by conducting “experimental research design using virtual reality in a design studio at The British University in Egypt”(Mahrous et al., 2023)[10]. They found “that biophilic design has a strong impact on Egyptian university students’ level of satisfaction. This could be done by emphasizing or adding these main biophilic attributes concluded from this study: Natural Light, Natural Ventilation, Presence of Greenery, Availability of large windows (Prospect/Refuge), indirect connection to nature, and Natural Finishing”(Mahrous et al., 2023)[10]. In 2019, Demco, a design team, created a biophilic classroom promoting “a rich integration of nature throughout the learning environment” (ED-Spaces, 2019)[11].The classroom used green color schemes and “living walls of green plants complemented by a natural imagery backdrop” (ED-Spaces, 2019)[11]. The classroom of 2050 will incorporate biophilic designs similar to Demco’s by including green walls, natural plants, and materials resembling nature. This will be incorporated into K-12 as well as higher education classrooms. Biophilic design has tremendous potential to improve a student’s experience in the classroom by connecting everyday learning with nature and, by 2050, will be incorporated into classrooms around the world.  

Project Based Learning[edit | edit source]

In the year 2023, most classrooms are set up in a way such that all chairs and desks are facing a projector screen or blackboard at the front of the room. The rooms are set up in this way because the classroom of 2023 is centered around a lecture given at the front. In this classroom style, many students often find themselves disengaged from the lecture and possibly even bored. In the year 2050, this classroom style will change.

In 2050, there will still need to be lectures but there will be a heavy emphasis on project based learning. By reducing lecture time and increasing projects for students, it will allow them to dig deeper on their own and learn themselves. A class lecture will give students a foundation on a certain topic and allow for the teacher to then give the students a problem to solve.

It has been proven that project based learning increases student engagement, it is more aligned with the real world, allows for increased student learning, and learning to be more student centered (Jackson, 2023)[12]. By giving students a project to solve on their own, they will be more engaged and have the learning centered on them rather than being lectured. With increased engagement, this will directly lead to increased student learning. The biggest takeaway with project based learning is that it is more geared towards the real world. In the real world, there are constantly problems coming about in which different solutions must be crafted. With project based learning, this problem solving can be simulated rather than students listening to one solution in a lecture. A great example of this is within the construction industry. The problems in this industry are very diverse and require consistent problem solving. At the University of Virginia, project based learning has been utilized in many classes within the construction management program. Problems from companies within the field have been given to students to solve and present back to those in industry. Feedback is then given back to the students which allows for them to learn. In many industries, especially in the construction industry, there is not always a “right” answer to solving a problem. In this case, project based learning allows for the students to solve it in their own way rather than being taught one way in a lecture. This experience helps students in the long run and later on in the real world by growing their critical thinking and problem solving skills by simulating problems and approaches in the real world.

In the year 2050, written exams will be reduced in the classroom. Instead, students will have their knowledge tested with projects. Rather than trying to memorize something specific for an exam, their knowledge of a topic will instead be critically applied to a real world scenario. This experience of project based learning will better prepare students for careers after graduation.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

The classroom of 2050 will include student experiences not able in the present day classroom setting. The integration of AR and VR technology, project based learning curriculums, and collaborative learning spaces will alter the classroom with positive student experiences as a main priority.  For further work, an exploration into technologies not incorporating AR and VR would be integrated into our vision of 2050. As technology continues to evolve over the next 27 years, there will be plenty of opportunities to implement them within the classroom. Technology is useful within the classroom, and all new opportunities should be investigated as they present themselves to ensure learning is being promoted as best as possible.

Citations[edit | edit source]

  1. Bobek, E; Tversky, B (2016-12-07). "Creating visual explanations improves learning". Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications. 1 (27) – via Web of Science.
  2. Moody, D (2022-10-11). "School of Medicine Brings Virtual Reality Training to the Classroom for Medical Students". Medicine in Motion News. Retrieved 2023-12-07.
  3. Maqableh, M; Alia, M (2021-09-01). "Evaluation online learning of undergraduate students under lockdown amidst COVID-19 Pandemic: The online learning experience and students' satisfaction". Children and Youth Services Review. 128 (106160) – via Web of Science.
  4. Cornell University (2023). "Collaborative Learning". Center for Teaching Innovation. Retrieved 2023-12-06.
  5. Smith System (2023). "Collaborative Learning". Smith System®. Retrieved 2023-12-06.
  6. Mather, E. T. (2018-02-21). "What's in UVA's New Link Lab? The Future". UVA Today. Retrieved 2023-12-06.
  7. Gillis, K. (2018-11-19). "Biophilic design: What is it? Why it matters? And how do we use it?". Building Design + Construction. Retrieved 2023-12-06.
  8. a b Chelmu, C. (2023-04-19). "The Benefits of Biophilic Design in Education". Entrepreneurs Break. Retrieved 2023-12-06.
  9. a b Daly, J., Burchett, M., & Torpy, F. (2010, Oct 29). Plants in the classroom can improve student performance. University of Technology Sydney.
  10. a b c Mahrous, A., Dewidar, K., Refaat, M., & Nessim, A. (2023, June 8).The impact of biophilic attributes on university students level of Satisfaction: Using virtual reality simulation. Ain Shams Engineering Journal 15
  11. a b ED-Spaces (2019-07-12). "ED Spaces Winning Classroom Design – A Behind the Scenes Interview with Stephen Gower, Demco Design Supervisor". ED Spaces. Retrieved 2023-12-06.
  12. Jackson, H. (2023-02-20). "Project-Based Learning in Higher Education". University of Dayton. Retrieved 2023-12-04.