LSC Postings re: Planning - Beginning Steps & Giving Attention to Low-hanging Fruit (June 2015)

To introduce the series of LSC Webinar snapshots, some reflections from participants at a 2009 PKAL/LSC/ CIC/NITLE Workshop on Learning Commons.  Approximately 25 campus teams participated, each including faculty, academic administrators, IT directors, and facilities officers.  At the workshop conclusion, individuals and teams shared their insights about planning that they were taking back to share with colleagues.  Note:

  • most of these are low-cost.  
  • most can be woven into institutional policies and practices for long term impact. 
  • reflections suggest opportunities for formal and informal attention, by individuals as well as teams.


  • How important it is to think about the ‘butterfly’ approach to planning. We should start right now thinking about what we are doing, about what we might be doing, and monitoring the impact of small changes—anticipating unintended consequences.  Be reminded that the goal of planning is not to do things that should be undone.

  • A scarcity of resources does not mean a scarcity of imagination.  

"What we need to do is use what we already have." —Susan Sontag

  • The importance of reviving spaces with existing resources at minimal expense. Create destination spaces around campuses—particularly within the library. Paint—introduce color. Rearrange and/or install furniture. 
  • The importance of involving students in the planning process. Walk around the campus with students. Look for potential spaces for redesign at low cost, as a means for piloting new approaches. Be very clear about the first impression that a student has when walking into a learning space.

  • The power and comfort of visual appeal for our students.
  • Given current fiscal restraints, it is important to take time asking what we can do with what we have in ways that are not costly, yet do not preclude future actions.
  • Importance of asking: “what do our students do in our spaces after 4:30 p.m.” when we have left campus?
  • Understand and build on what we already have in place. We may be able to make progress more quickly and cheaply than we might imagine.

(Repurposed Library Room. University of Michigan)

  • We need to be sure the campus ‘big-picture’ thinkers are on our team as our planning proceeds. We need to avoid those with narrow interests and/or an inability to visioning.

"By increasing our capacity to improvise..., live with permanent ambiguity and novelty, [we are freed] to go beyond the predictable, to embrace complexity."  —Riel Miller

  • Use evolution as a metaphor for planning learning spaces, since all spaces evolve over time.
  • The key guiding force in all facilities planning has to be the institutional mission.

"Spaces in which humans grow: a learning community…where mind and sensibility are shared… a place to learn together about the real world, and about possible worlds of the imagination, of materials and learn the power of doing these things together." —Jerome S. Bruner

To keep pace with continually changing needs, we must create learning spaces that support the “science of change.” A “science of change” learning environment incorporates flexibility, incremental adaptability, and social awareness. Those responsible for the physical environment for learning on a college or university campus can be certain that future students and faculty will absolutely need a roof over their heads, air, water, and warmth. Beyond that, they can only imagine. But, they have the power to plan for the unknown, to shape the future for students, science, and society.

Planning and Visioning-- Jeanne L. Narum