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Report: Learning Commons Feature 6.8 Group-Collaboration Rooms on Average

The average number of group-work rooms in college and university learning commons is 6.8, according to a new study. And adding more group-work rooms is the most frequently cited way institutional leaders say they'd use additional space over other choices such as adding classroom space (9 percent) or room for additional computer workstations (7 percent).

These and other benchmarks surfaced in a new research project by Primary Research Group that focused specifically on details about college and university learning commons. The report offers data from 44 institutions, with results broken out by size and type of school and tuition level along with other question-specific categories.

Among the other findings of the study:

School type and size are a factor. Learning commons are located entirely within the library at public institutions 96 percent of the time; for private colleges that's the case only 67 percent of the time. More than 45 percent of colleges with at least 10,000 enrolled students also include some form of outdoor space in the commons.

Diversity rules funding of commons.The most common way that learning commons are funded across all institutions is through the library operating budget (chosen by 34 percent of respondents). Twenty-seven percent fund the commons through an outside grant or endowment, and an equal number use funding from a non-library academic or administrative department. Only a quarter of schools tap the library capital budget for funding. Internal grants cover another 2 percent.

Flexibility is "critical." Flexible seating dominated furniture preferences. Among the particular "best" purchases mentioned by respondents: "amoeba-shaped tables for computers," "flexible drop tables," "tables with power and chairs with very soft seats," "diner-booth-style seating along one wall" and "tables on wheels." As the authors noted, "Flexibility is critical. Do not overestimate your capacity to determine student needs."

Tutors and IT people have a home in commons. Thirty-nine percent of colleges said they have IT support services available in the commons; 43 percent reported having tutors on site. The smaller the enrollment of the college, the more likely it was to supply tutors in the commons. Fifty-five percent of schools with fewer than 2,000 students provided tutors in the commons, while only 28 percent in institutions with more than 10,000 students did so. The opposite was true for IT support: Those schools with more than 10,000 students were more likely to have IT people on hand in the commons than those with fewer than 2,000 students.

"Learning Commons Benchmarks" is available as a PDF file or in printed form for $95 at the Primary Research Group site.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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