Interactive, open-plan learning environments offer a number of benefits for students and student learning.
However, as these spaces become the norm in schools and universities, they’re also accompanied by a unique set of challenges.
One particular challenge is managing noise. In this article, we explore why these features are so important, and what you can do to manage noise in your open-plan learning environment.
In a classroom setting, excessive noise can be problematic.
To begin with, excessive noise is disruptive and distracting. It makes the task of communicating clearly and effectively very difficult.
All these problems can prevent students and teachers from getting the most out of their learning experience. So, it’s clear that excessive noise is a challenge that must be dealt with when you’re refurbishing spaces in your school or university.
Eliminating noise from external sources such as corridors and other rooms located beside, below, and above your space is one important way to manage acoustics in a learning space. This is often done using materials that absorb sound, such as the intricate ceiling system Premis installed for Griffith University. High-performance acoustic panelling on your walls can also reduce noise seeping in (and out).
As an added benefit, these materials don’t just prevent excess sound seeping into your classroom – they can also help to lower reverberation and echoes inside the room, dampening these unnecessary and distracting sounds.
Ceiling and wall materials aren’t the only features that can absorb sound that’s produced in your learning spaces. Soft furnishings and even furniture such as pin boards can also absorb noise.
That said, a lot of unpleasant ambient sound can be created from furniture and feet moving across the floor. To combat this problem, minimise the use of hard floor surfaces so they’re only utilised in spaces where a hard floor is a legislative or practical requirement (such as in a science lab). Carpets and rugs are particularly effective at reducing the sound made from movement on a floor – and they also absorb additional noise, too.