Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Computer Lab of the Future

Last month I had the opportunity to visit the Cox Computing Center at Emory University. I write about learning spaces frequently here and on my own blog, and I have to say, the Cox Center is one of the coolest spaces I've seen yet. Even in the middle of summer, walking into the space I felt a definite buzz of activity. The jazz playing in the background probably helped, but I was still impressed to see so many students working and milling around on what should have been a quiet day. During the regular semester, they average around 1500-1800 visitors a day, and I can certainly see why.

One of the first things my colleagues pointed out was the relative lack of computers in the space. When we think "computer lab," many of us still think of elbow-to-elbow desktops in soldierly rows under the florescents. While I believe computer labs will be needed for quite some time to come, I really appreciate the minimum of seven linear feet between machines in this lab, not to mention the movable furniture and whiteboards. The space is extremely laptop-friendly, with many students opting to bring their own or to check one out from the service desk.

I kept feeling like this was an information commons, just without any library involvement. The place is such a hot spot during the school year, they added bean bags, ottomans, and pillows for extra seating, which further contribute to the vibe that this is truly a student space. The lighting is low, food is allowed, conversation and collaboration are encouraged. The student assistants at the desk were friendly and helpful and quite approachable. The furnishings, largely Herman Miller and Steelcase, give the place the perfect level of fun and funky and are still extremely functional.

This is one of several lab/learning spaces I will profile here in the future. I encourage you to visit the Cox Computing Center as my pictures really don't capture the feel of this energetic space.

No comments: