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Learning Space Predictions | FLEXspace

By Rebecca V. Frazee and Lisa Stephens of, featuring Nic Halverson, CEO and co-founder of Occuspace. 

To browse details, images, floor plans and more from spaces featured in this column, plus hundreds more, login to and visit the Gallery “HEAV -  HEAV - Higher Ed AV Magazine Feature

Looking ahead to 2023, one overarching prediction related to learning spaces is that hybrid learning will become the norm, blurring the lines between various learning modalities, and moving beyond the ‘worst of both worlds’ experiences that we’ve seen in the past. Learning environments will need to reinforce students’ sense of safety, connectedness, and belongingness, and in some cases, more ‘learner control and choice’ through ‘hyflex’ options where learners choose their preferred participation option. Below are a few considerations, inspired by our own observations, publications including the Educause Horizon report, and the chapter, Forward Looking: Predictions for the Future of Hybrid Learning Spaces, from the book “Hybrid Learning Spaces” by Gil et al (2022). 

Sensors, more ‘seeing and listening’ classroom tech, and learning analytics for physical spaces

Even with growing hybrid and online learning options, In-person, face-to-face classroom activities will continue to play a major role in the college experience. According to the Mor et al Delphi study (2021), “Interactions between students and teachers, and with physical and digital artifacts within a classroom are currently recorded only through observations that are costly, non-scalable, and not easily transferable across contexts. Digital traces of classroom interactions may provide useful analytics to teachers and learners in real-time during the classroom activities, in near-time among activities across spaces and contexts, or in far-time in terms of reshaping the learning designs and spaces. Also, such classroom digital traces and analytics may contribute in bridging different modalities of in-class and out-of-class learning activities. Currently, hybrid classes are instrumented with a wealth of “speaking” and “showing” technology: cameras, microphones and screens which help instructors communicate with participants. In the future, these will be augmented with “listening” and “seeing” technology: sensors and analytical dashboards that help instructors observe learners and adapt to their needs, while taking care of privacy, trust and safety. And “a recurring issue raised by experts are privacy concerns due to the increased use of sensors, and the need for a responsible use of learning analytics drawn from sensor data.” References: Martínez-Maldonado et al. (2021); Warburton & Perry (2021); Cook, Mor & Santos (2020); Amarasinghe et al. (2020).”

One learning space sensor company and FLEXspace community member, Occuspace, is seeing rapid adoption of its privacy-friendly occupancy monitoring solution to demonstrate usage and improve the student experience. The technology is used by dozens of universities nationwide including Columbia, Purdue, Vanderbilt, UCLA, UC San Diego, and many more. According to Nic Halverson, CEO and co-founder of Occuspace, “space is a prime commodity on college campuses today…A space doesn’t have a single purpose anymore. With the recent shift to flex work models for personnel and online learning, campus buildings can now be allocated for multiple use cases. Our solution helps university decision-makers evaluate occupancy levels to demonstrate space use and/or make informed decisions about how to maximize current real estate.”

Occuspace Waitz app from Vanderbilt University (this is front-facing Occuspace data used by students, faculty, and staff. This is not directly applicable to the context of Nic's commentary but a way to show how our data can be viewed

We also talked to Nic Halverson to share his predictions about campus spaces in general. Nic says, “Based on our experience working with dozens of higher education partners across the United States and Canada, we see many institutions embracing more agile and flexible approaches to physical space use on campus. Spaces will be viewed in essence as physical resources that can be used for a variety of purposes not only for classrooms or administrative spaces, for example. In administrative areas, where hybrid work models have been increasingly embraced, we expect a break from the longstanding one-to-one desk-to-employee ratios to one-to-two or greater employee-to-desk ratios to drive building use and make offices feel more vibrant and alive, not like the ghost towns they have become. In general, we see spaces being allocated similarly to budgets. If a department does not use its space(s) efficiently, it may not get the same space allocation in the next fiscal year. Innovative solutions like scheduling platforms, occupancy monitoring technology, modular space dividers, and others will continue to be adopted to help administrators maximize the use of campus real estate and decrease operational costs.”

Synchronous hybrid teaching practices

Synchronous hybrid teaching practices that support in-person and remote learners will mature and mainstream globally to support students and instructors in a variety of learning scenarios. This hybrid learning approach is considered by many to be aligned with an open education philosophy, and supports equity and access to education. This approach will require new hybrid teaching strategies and software that employ cloud-based ‘shared spaces’ and tools to support synchronous engagement, collaboration, and group work, as well as the necessary support for both faculty and students new to this approach. Classroom audio will be a consideration, so that groups can hear each other and not be drowned out by other classroom chatter. We’ve heard examples of in-person groups all wearing earbuds/headphones to be able to converse with each other and their online/remote group members during class.  The SUNY System recently funded a grant initiative to encourage faculty experimentation of third party tools that enhance physical learning environments, particularly hyflex designs.  We anticipate being able to share those outcomes in the near future on the HEAV portal! 

Learning design and analytics for a more complex hybrid learning ecosystem

According to a Delphi study by More et al (2021), “Hybrid learning occurs in multiple spaces (digital and physical), settings (formal and informal) or contexts (indoors and outdoor, in-classroom and out-of classroom), extending the current view of mobile and ubiquitous learning. These emergent new integrated dimensions of hybrid learning pose significant challenges for the involved stakeholders, especially the instructional designers and educators. Collecting learning analytics from multiple spaces, settings and contexts will be especially relevant in order to have an integrated view of the evolution of students’ learning. Such analytics may inform the learning (re)design of such complex situations, while the learning design may make the analytics meaningful to the stakeholders. The mutual interdependence and integration of learning analytics and learning design will play a major role in the upcoming hybrid learning environments. On the other hand, the power of such technologies raises complex ethical issues. Thus, academic institutions, researchers and practitioners should enable multimodal learning analytics through multiple spaces, settings and contexts, so that the integrated use of learning design and learning analytics can be made possible and reinforced in the hybrid learning spaces, while maintaining an open conversation on the ethical considerations.” References: Pishtari & Rodríguez-Triana (2021); Beardsley et al (2020); Vujovic et al (2020); Yilmaz & Yilmaz (2020). Reading between the lines, classroom designers and academic technologists will be challenged with increased density of technology - more complex wireless, cable runs and rack spaces to support the sensors and surveillance that will assist with analytics and research.

Design for privacy, safety and identity in hybrid spaces

Hybrid and hyflex learning approaches will involve both formal and informal learning activities beyond the classroom and campus. The learning ‘spaces’ will include classrooms, informal and outdoor campus spaces, as well as public spaces and participants’ personal ‘home’ environments. This will require consideration of policies and expectations regarding digital access,expression of identity,  privacy, and safety.

Flexible, Adaptable Learning Spaces 

Flexible spaces to support more active and ‘user centered’ learning have clearly seen a rise in the past 20 years, and will become the norm, not only in classrooms but also for conference rooms and other non-instructional spaces. Such spaces empower users to have control over their learning environments, enabling them to re-configuring and optimize them for diverse scenarios. In addition to the furniture and technology, campuses must provide training and support so that instructors, students, and staff have the skills to leverage these flexible and technology-rich spaces.

For more on the future of learning spaces, see:

Educause (2022). 2022 Educause Horizon Report: Teaching and Learning Edition. Online.  By Kathe Pelletier, Mark McCormack, Jamie Reeves, Jenay Robert, and Nichole Arbino, with Maha Al-Freih, Camille Dickson-Deane, Carlos Guevara, Lisa Koster, Melchor Sánchez-Mendiola, Lee Skallerup Bessette, and Jake Stine, 2022 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report, Teaching and Learning Edition (Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE, 2022).

Gil, E., Mor, Y., Dimitriadis, Y., & Köppe Christian. (2022). Hybrid learning spaces. Springer. 

Mor, Yishay & Gil, Einat & Dimitriadis, Yannis & Köppe, Christian. (2021). Forward Looking: Predictions for the Future of Hybrid Learning Spaces. 10.1007/978-3-030-88520-5_17. 

Nic Halverson, CEO and co-founder of Occuspace

The FLEXspace Team

Assistant Dean, Digital & Online Education
School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, The University at Buffalo
Project Director, 

Lisa serves as Assistant Dean at the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences leading the Office of Digital & Online Education, and also serves as Senior Strategist for Academic Innovation in the Office of the SUNY Provost.  She enjoys an appointment in the UB Department of Communication as an Adjunct Associate Professor. Her SUNY portfolio includes leadership of™ and serves as the SUNY Partner Manager for Coursera.

Faculty, Learning Design & Technology Program
San Diego State University
Associate Director, 

Rebecca teaches in the Learning Design and Technology program at San Diego State University and is the Manager. She enjoys experimenting with new technology tools and techniques to support active learning and team collaboration in higher ed and the workplace. Rebecca is a singer and songwriter and has been having fun with asynchronous ‘socially distanced’ recording projects this year. Contact Rebecca at, and Twitter at @rebeccafrazee.

The Flexible Learning Environments eXchange ( is an award-winning community and open digital repository for higher ed that houses a growing collection of user-contributed content “by campuses for campuses,” with detailed examples of formal and informal learning spaces ranging from multimedia studios, maker spaces, computer labs, hybrid/flexible classrooms, and huddle spaces to large exhibit spaces, simulation labs and renovated lecture halls. FLEXspace was launched in 2012 as a collaboration between SUNY, the CSU Cal State University system, and Foothill-DeAnza Community College District and has since grown to include over 5000 members from 1400 campuses around the world, with PennState joining the partnership in 2019. FLEXspace won the Campus Technology Innovators Award in 2016, and the California Higher Education (CHEC) Collaborative Conference Focus on Efficiency Award in 2018.

FLEXspace users include practitioners, experts, and decision-makers in higher education, K-12, libraries, and museums who are focused on campus planning and facilities, learning technology, A/V systems integration, instructional design, teaching, and research. The FLEXspace portal provides a sophisticated suite of features that enables users to document and showcase their own campus learning spaces, share research, best practices, and tools for planning.