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The future of schools and campuses post coronavirus

As universities prepare for a staged return to campus, now is the perfect time to explore ways of making schools and campuses more resilient with affordable wayfinding solutions.

It’s been amazing to see how quickly educators have adapted to the coronavirus, moving entire programs online in a matter of weeks. According to UNESCO more than 90% of the world’s student population – over a billion students – have been impacted by school and university closures. Academics, teachers and students have all had to adapt.

Some students, though, are struggling with social isolation more than others or worry they’re falling behind without face-to-face teaching. Equal access to technology is another challenge for primary and secondary students.

Now is the perfect time to take stock. What’s been working well? What is the optimal density for a lecture hall or a classroom? If educators move to a hybrid model – using a mix of in-person and remote learning – how will this impact the management of spaces around campus? Can wayfinding and signage design help with this transition?

Rethinking circulation paths and space allocations at school and on campus

Schools in most states of Australia are already open. This has meant quickly rethinking circulation paths, introducing up/down stairwells, allocating drop off and pick up zones and reallocating space to allow social distancing (by converting libraries into staff rooms, for example).

Australian universities are now figuring out how to transition thousands of staff and students back to their campuses in Semester 2. Many are planning a staged return, gradually opening areas of campus to a limited number of people.

Others are deciding which learning programs to prioritize so they can allocate spaces big enough to allow social distancing. Space is already a rare commodity in over-crowded schools and campuses, so educators are going to need a more rigorous approach to occupancy planning.

As Gensler says, in future, we’ll need schools that can “flex at a moment’s notice”. This means better space management, more multi-purpose areas, classrooms with multiple configurations, supported by signage systems that remind students of new paths and procedures.

Campus wayfinding post coronavirus – things to consider

BrandCulture develops wayfinding systems for many of Australia’s top universities and educators. We believe digital wayfinding and information design will help to reactivate campuses safely and affordably.

Our clients are already thinking of ways to use wayfinding cues to encourage students to take certain routes, de-densify popular walkways, and discourage people from congregating in enclosed spaces like study rooms. Facility managers are using signage to communicate changes around campus like ‘zero contact’ collection points at libraries and staggered access to laboratories.

Touchless wayfinding solutions – like QR codes that send maps directly to student’s phones – are likely to become more prevalent in the post-coronavirus world.

Campuses may also need to move towards digital wayfinding solutions that support more agile, flexible spaces. When combined with sensors, digital wayfinding systems can even equip facility managers with real-time occupancy data, which is invaluable when rethinking circulation paths and re-routing students to less crowded rooms, for example.

The things that make schools and campuses such vibrant, bustling places also make them vulnerable to future pandemics. While they’re lying empty, we have an opportunity to rethink how students and staff move within them, and build more resilience into these built environments in future.

If you are rethinking the movement of staff and students at your campus or school in response to the coronavirus, we’d love to help. Send us a note to hello@brandculture.com.au