The Inflexibility of Flexible Spaces

A very interesting dialogue occurred at a recent SCUP conference. A presentation on flexible learning spaces sparked a comment from the audience about the inflexibility of flexible spaces.

We have all heard that flexibility is important and believe me the intent of design is to provide flexibility. At CMBA we strive for flexibility. However, flexibility may mean something different for all stakeholders.

Does flexible mean one minute the space can be filled with digitally and power connected tables and the next minute have a dance? No.

Does flexible mean you can move monitors around wherever you want? No.

So what SHOULD your expectation be of flexible space?

1. Tables Can Be Moved But…

The tables used many times for collaborative settings are large and very special tables. The issue is the tables usually have a power connection and many data connections. We have found the real users of the space are not allowed to deal with disconnecting and reconnecting the tables. As a result the tables are more fixed than you would think. The best solution we have found is to provide plenty of power outlets in the floor scattered throughout the space and rely on WiFi for the data connection. Some of the class settings may take more than two days to reconfigure.

2.  Many Large Monitors are Provided But…

Monitors are connected to the wall and wired for data and power. The ideal option would be to have monitors with long life batteries like iPads on rolling carts but that is not available. The best solution we have found is to provide plenty of monitors at fixed locations with an interface to allow individual display or all monitors displaying the same information.

3. Video Projection is Provided But….

Video projectors provide large format image presentations at the front of the class but many times the position is fixed. We have not found a projector controlled with a remote which can be adjusted to project in any direction. The best solution we have found is to use multiple projectors. Make sure you use a swivel mount for most flexibility but don’t expect to adjust the projector several times in a class.