Submitted by ub on Tue, 04/08/2014 - 12:53

The State University of New York and the California State University today announced the development of Flexible Learning Environments Exchange (FLEXspace), a first-of-its-kind initiative that aims to inform and streamline the process of building “smart” classrooms on college campuses.

FLEXspace is a robust open access repository, where users can view images and information about the new installation or renovation of learning space, before beginning a new project.

Leaders of the nation’s two largest systems of higher education encourage faculty, staff, and private partners of their institutions to assist with beta testing for the project.

“In today’s climate of ongoing technological advancement, it is imperative that the nation’s colleges and universities collaborate to deliver sophisticated learning environments that help maximize success for our students,” said SUNY Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Elizabeth L. Bringsjord. “FLEXspace represents cutting-edge innovation in classroom design, and SUNY is proud to play a lead role in getting this exciting initiative off the ground.”

“FLEXspace is an innovative solution that will benefit colleges and universities world-wide once it has the necessary content behind it,” said CSU Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer Ephraim P. Smith. “By providing unprecedented access to best practices in a user-friendly, easily-searchable online format, FLEXspace will save time and money while ensuring efficiency and effectiveness.”

FLEXspace is featured as the cover story in this month’s Campus Technology Magazine, which provides in-depth coverage of technology advancements and new uses in higher education across the globe.

To participate in beta testing, faculty members as well as facilities personnel and Audio/Visual (AV) integrators are asked to visit to request an account. Participants will upload comments and images that detail their experiences with building or renovating classroom space in an effort to build the site’s content so that it can reach the peer review stage, and ultimately be ready for widespread use.

“The FLEXspace project promises to provide faculty and administrators with examples of the best modern learning spaces, guidance that can be used to help plan renovations and new classroom and other learning environments,” said Peter Knuepfer, president of the SUNY University Faculty Senate. “As faculty continue to develop and refine methods for delivery of the curriculum, contributing to this repository will offer some of the best practices from our systems, and ultimately from around the globe.”

“When a new learning space is designed or renovated, it can be challenging to balance the needs of teaching faculty, budgets, technology and space location, among other characteristics,” said Lisa Stephens, project lead and senior strategist for academic innovation at SUNY. “As soon as we presented the idea to bring these multiple points of view into a single shared repository at the Consortium of College and University Media Centers (CCUMC) conference last year, we knew we had a ‘tiger by the tail’ because so many people from institutions across the country immediately expressed interest in joining the start-up effort.”

The concept was first conceived by the SUNY Faculty Advisory Council on Teaching and Technology in 2011. In the years since, FLEXspace has been jointly developed by a group of representatives from SUNY, CSU, Cornell University, the Consortium of College and University Media Centers (CCUMC), Society for College and University Planning (SCUP), Foothill-DeAnza Community College District, Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT), and EDUCAUSE, in partnership with Artstor, a nonprofit organization that provides Shared Shelf software for managing and distributing digital content.

The group has collaborated with higher education administrators and faculty, architects, space planners, and private interest groups to develop a portal that could gather and report data to describe learning spaces from the perspective of faculty, facilities support personnel, and instructional technology integrators.

FLEXspace is envisioned to be a free, non-commercial service to institutions of higher education and their partners, supported by a sponsorship funding model.