PITTSBURGH, PA. — When academic and facilities professionals start the planning process for renovations or new construction on campus, they discuss what they want the space to be like. “We want it to be innovative” is a typical comment faculty members make, said Joseph Moreau, vice chancellor of technology for the Foothill-DeAnza Community College District. But “innovative” could mean a lot of things. Agreeing to a common language and thinking through the options available for achieving goals can be a long process.

The Flexible Learning Environments eXchange is designed to make space planning easier. The free, open resource is a repository of photographs of campus spaces, along with information about the spaces. The goal in creating it was to share best practices about creating learning spaces, Moreau said. He spoke at the Society for College and University Planning’s annual, international conference, along with others who have worked on the FLEXspace project.

The project was launched under the direction of the Office of the Provost for the State University of New York system.

Goals include:

  • Providing examples of peer solutions with return on investment for the projects.
  • Decreasing the time from facilities planning to construction.
  • Encouraging consistent terminology across stakeholder groups, including facilities planners, architects, faculty members, instructional support professionals, administrators and information technology specialists. “We discovered there’s not really a shared vocabulary across all the people with a role to play in a design or remodel project,” Moreau said.

Using FLEXspace can save institution officials time and money they might have spent visiting other institutions to tour facilities, said Lisa Stephens, senior strategist for academic innovation for the SUNY system’s Office of the Provost. With the photos and information FLEXspace provides, they can develop a much better idea of what they want before they plan site visits.

Officials from colleges and universities can create free accounts to share information about their spaces and view other institutions’ posts. They can post images, PDFs and Excel spreadsheets, said Megan Marler from ArtStor, a nonprofit that developed the FLEXspace site.

Officials complete three information screens about their space. They cover the areas of learning and assessment, instructional technology integration and facilities. When those three categories are represented in a Venn diagram, active learning is at the intersection, said Bradford Snyder, associate director of classroom technology services at SUNY College at Cortland.

When users view images on FLEXspace, they can zoom in and rotate them and save them to groups, Marler said. They can also generate a URL for an image and send it to another user with an account.

Officials involved in the project are working on adding a peer review component to FLEXspace.

To sustain the project, they have developed a sponsorship model. Herman Miller, a furniture manufacturer, is the inaugural sponsor.

Visit FLEXspace at https://flexspace.org.