Perry Chapman Prize to Fund Study at Drexel University of Spatial Relationships and Student Learning

Perry Chapman Prize to Fund Study at Drexel University of Spatial Relationships and Student Learning
Jenny James Lee
October 28, 2014

New research to study how physical conditions influence learning outside of the classroom at Drexel University was selected for $10,000 in funding through the 2014-15 Perry Chapman Prize.

The annual prize funds research in the planning and design of institutions of higher education, and is intended to further the research, development and dissemination of emerging knowledge to improve campus environments in support of an institution’s mission.

The 2014-2015 winning proposal, titled “Peer engagement as a common resource: Managing interaction patterns in institutions,” was submitted by W. Michael Johnson from the City College of New York, Danuta A. Nitecki, dean of libraries at Drexel University Libraries and Michael Khoo, assistant teaching professor at Drexel University’s College of Computing & Informatics.

“Our goal is to provide evidence of spatial relationships among students in study areas,” says Nitecki. “We will create and test an evaluation tool to measure proximity mapping, intending to allow campus planners to easily gather evidence to improve the design of a learning environment.”

Using learning environments, the team will record patterns of engagement among students and map the proximity between people as a proxy for the exchange of information. Low-resolution time-lapse images taken via ceiling mounted cameras will both enable privacy for individuals in the images and will build a database for the work.

Updates about the team’s progress can be found online through the University Libraries website, or on Twitter at @Proxmap.

Research from this project will inform the design of future learning environments for Drexel University Libraries, which has led a series of new initiatives to redefine the academic library. In July 2011, the Library Learning Terrace opened as space that houses no physical books but focuses on providing a flexible learning environment that encourage collaborative or individual work [ownership of space]. Most recently, the Libraries implemented a new service model that lead to the removal of reference desks and implemented a kiosk for self-checkout of laptops.

The Perry Chapman Prize is supported by The Hideo Sasaki Foundation under the auspices of the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP), and seeks to honor the intellectual contributions of M. Perry Chapman.