Mastering Acoustics in the New Multi-Use Classroom

Big changes are being rolled out to learning environments. Like other emerging interior design trends, the push for flexible educational spaces was already in the works before the pandemic. Now, as we finally move forward, educators and students alike will appreciate the ability to easily reconfigure space for a variety of learning activities. The option to spread out will also help everyone feel safer when they are in class together.

But will students and instructors be able to hear each other clearly?

That depends on how the architecture and design team approaches the space, the ratio of solid versus hard finishes, and other fluid factors in the learning environment such as the number of people at any given time. People and softer finishes help absorb sound and reduce unwanted echo for a more comfortable learning experience with better acoustics. See how Snowsound acoustic panels, which have achieved a Class A sound absorption classification, can dramatically reduce echo in a space. Demo Video.

According to the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA), poor acoustical design with excessive noise is disruptive to the learning process and may negatively affect speech perception, student behavior, and educational outcomes. Designers who expertly navigate acoustics will deliver the most successful educational projects.

Educational buildings have historically been designed with fixed architecture and an emphasis on permanence. But, as Steelcase noted in their April 2021 education white paper, “Learn Better,” it is time for a fundamentally different experience.

According to the Steelcase Learning Environment Evaluation (LEE) study, both students and instructors have been requesting more control over their learning environments. People want options so they can choose where to learn or work and they want the ability to adapt spaces based on their needs.

In fact, the LEE study reports a 92% increase in students who say they often or always move furniture to support their learning. Instructors reported a 47% increase when asked if they agree or strongly agree that they want to be able to move furniture into new layouts. Also, students respond well when they have access to mobile furniture and different seating options and postures.

These findings reinforce the need for a new flexible approach to designing educational spaces. The new model ensures that walls, power, and furnishings can easily move to allow spaces to expand and contract as needed. Snowsound freestanding panels are an important part of this mix. See them here.

Freestanding panels are convenient. They allow the user the freedom to reconfigure the space as needed for best acoustics depending on the number of people and other frequently changeable elements in the new educational environment. Snowsound’s movable panels can be combined with fixed panels for a total and effective acoustical solution that combines elegant Italian design with patented technology. More effective and healthier (because they do not absorb dust) than felt or PET, Snowsound panels absorb 100% of sound waves that hit them.

Clear speech is essential to classroom function. The Acoustical Society of America has found that about 60 percent of all classroom learning activities involve students listening to and participating in spoken communications with the teacher and other students. When architects and interior designers execute a flawless acoustical design in education spaces, the result is enhanced speech clarity and fewer distractions for students and teachers—and better learning performance.

Learn more here about Snowsound patented technology and how it significantly enhances learning environments.

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