One of the many concerns over the effects of the pandemic on learning over these past two years has been the loss of opportunities for students to collaborate in person, important for both learning and the development of social skills. One of the ways these vital needs are being addressed is through the use of learning hubs and media centers, spaces that foster a combination of socialization and education. Let’s take a look at both.
Learning hubs, also called learning commons, are spaces for students to use either between classes or after school. In some cases these are off-site areas sponsored by local communities, but many are within school walls. Designed to be more inviting than simply hanging out in hallways or lobbies, learning hubs are flexible and adaptable to a variety of needs.
There are no hard and fast rules for learning hub design, but common items typically include soft and inviting furniture, with a layout that can be adapted to individual study or group collaboration. In some ways, learning hubs reflect trends we’ve seen in colleges, and in office design. Many have cafes with coffee or other drinks and light fare, tools like whiteboards to promote group work and private spaces for counseling, tutoring or quiet study. Some may even have outdoor areas.
While some schools have added learning hubs via new construction, many more are repurposing existing space, often unused or underused spaces like lobbies or cafeterias, which might normally be occupied for only a couple of hours per day.
The media center is an extension of the same concept, but with (as the name would suggest) a focus on the technology needed to produce graphic elements for projects and presentations. For that reason, media centers (also called library commons) are typically developed within existing libraries. The media center creates a hybrid space where new technology lives side by side with ready access to books and other more traditional sources of research.
As with learning hubs, look for lounge-style furniture designed for comfort, collaboration and flexibility, as well as the preservation of the private study spaces you’ll find in a traditional library. Check out some of our collaborative spaces at Wheaton High School here.