Sound privacy issues are definitely not new on college campuses but there are several trends converging that are making the problem worse. Having dedicated quiet spaces is a crucial part of the solution and many universities are taking action to support their students and faculty.
One word you always seem to hear when people talk about being on a college campus is “energy.” Lots of young people, lots of movement, lots of action. For a student body, that can be inspiring. And for visitors of the campus and the faculty working there, it can be invigorating and heartening to see students trying to make something better of themselves and their community. One drawback to all that energy is a whole lot of noise.
Universities are where people hold rallies, conventions, concerts, and sporting events that demand large concentrations of people to yell all at one time. That noise can often be felt all across the campus, especially by people that are trying to focus on something they consider important. Even the libraries aren’t safe from disruption and noise-making events, as they are often right next door to them. It is safe to say, college life and crescendos of sound are inextricably tied.
So, what kind of value do quiet spaces on campus provide to students and faculty? Let's first look at different facets of the problem and the benefits of having a private, quiet spot for anyone that regularly finds themselves at a university.
Noisy Situations on Campus
People set in an environment where they are allowed to focus will typically be more productive than some surrounded by noise and nonsense, that’s a given. We’ve discussed in a previous blog post about the shocking cost of workplace distractions, and there’s a natural link between that cost and how distraction may affect the education of a university student, or the performance of a university faculty member.
Focus is crucial to retaining information, and keeping a certain level of productivity. Providing students and faculty with every opportunity to focus and thrive is paramount to the success of that university. Those that fail to create that focused environment are likely to see similar negative trends that businesses do when they fall short of this task.
Unlike a typical office environment, a university campus is going to have surge crowds that generate a lot of noise throughout the day. These surges are most often triggered during periods between common class hours or an event going on around a particular location. This means that no matter what is going on in the active classrooms (tests, lectures, presentations, etc.), there’s a crowd of people passing by the door, and that many people are only able to keep the volume down so much. Consider the fact that some of the people in that crowd are teenagers, and noise levels are going to be unpredictable at best.
Even Libraries Don’t Stay Quiet
Libraries and private study hall areas are already supposed to be a calm, quiet environment. And, for the most part, they are. But what about the occasion when people need to make a small, reasonable amount of noise for a phone call or for two people to have a private conversation?
Many of the layouts to libraries you’ll find on a college campus will force the person that just received an important call to walk out of the room, or even out of the building. That can really break up the flow of a stable working/studying environment, and unnecessarily puts a hassle on students that are trying to do the right thing. Even in these traditionally quiet spaces, there is an increasing need to provide more sound privacy for those that need it.
A Learning Environment that is Fair For All
The number of college students with attention deficit disorders and other learning related issues continues to rise. And the reality is, many non-traditional learners need quiet spaces for focusing, studying and even test taking. With so many distractions in the dorms, common areas and even study halls it is a challenge to find places to concentrate, especially for these students. This underscores the importance of creating quiet spaces in and around campus. Accommodating this segment of the student body with sound privacy solutions is an effective way of boosting morale, grades and even graduation rates!
University Offices and Faculty Needs
At many colleges, administrators, professors and other staff spend a lot of their time in busy offices that resemble modern open offices. Here they experience many of the same frustrations that the business world does. This is especially true in the bursar's office where financial information is being discussed. Often a student will need to call their parents to discuss issues related to tuition or other private matters. In fact, with any sensitive topics that arise in open air conversations, it is important that university offices have privacy options available.
Escape To Privacy During Events
There are plenty of times that people on a university campus will need privacy and focus even if they’re actively attending a game, a concert, or any other loud events. Not every phone call can be ignored and people will need more privacy than jamming a finger in their ear with their non-phone hand offers. And, sometimes, a private conversation needs to be taken care of without the burden of forcing people out of the building. Even when a high level of noise is expected in an area of a university campus, there’s value in offering these patrons a quieter, calmer environment, if only for a few minutes.
Phone Beeps Buzzes and Dings are Everywhere!
These days there is no place safe from smartphone notifications, alerts and ringtones! And to make matters worse the trend towards less and less cell phone etiquette has made the distractions more prevalent. With students spending 8 to 10 hours on their phones and an average of about 150 "pick ups" a day, it is clear they need a place to use their phones. Not only for themselves but also to save the people around them from endless interruptions. It doesn't seem right that hard working students and faculty often don't have a quiet place to focus, but it doesn't have to be that way. Smartphones are not going away, however the way they are used can definitely be shaped by presenting clear privacy options.
And Now, Possible Solutions:
Building Out For Privacy
One option that administrators have is to do construction and build out extra rooms around campus dedicated to this kind of seclusion. This often means a lot of paperwork, permits, and getting a lot of people whose job it is to say “no” to say “yes.” This is one option that can certainly work, but the hoops you have to jump through to get it done makes it a difficult one. And that’s before we even get into the huge expense and how the school is going to pay for it.
Once you’ve built these rooms, you’re now stuck with them in that location. With many college campuses undergoing seemingly unending construction, who knows what the university layout will look like after these privacy rooms are built? It leaves you hoping that they’re utilized to their maximum potential without any ways to adjust course in future when needed.
The Classic Cubicle Solution
Corporate thinking would tell us to simply put up some walls made of metal and foam and people will keep to themselves just fine. The reality is quite different, as anyone that’s worked next to a chatty Kathy at the office will be able to tell you.
These partitions are certainly going to be more flexible than the fully built rooms discussed in the previous section, but they’re not nearly as effective at separating focused people from distraction. While there are certainly some exceptions out there, it’s difficult to find a cubicle partition that you could describe as “attractive” to the eye. If you’re trying to sell a big, gray, ugly solution to someone that cares about the aesthetics of the university, you are fighting an uphill battle.
TalkBox Privacy Booths
When you need privacy and focus, but need to create that environment in a flexible way that can be used all over campus, you’re looking for a TalkBox Privacy Booth. These space-efficient booths offer students and faculty a way to separate themselves from the campus chaos by reducing noise by up to 40 decibels (which is a night and day difference). Each booth comes equipped with a spacious desk with room for a laptop, notebook, phone, and other necessities. They also include charging outlets, adjustable lighting and ventilation fans to create a very comfortable setting to focus in. And a TalkBox can be moved and even reassembled with only moderate time commitment, so they can be taken from the library during finals and out to the basketball game for a totally different purpose.
Showcase Your School Pride
TalkBox booths can be matched to your school colors and customized with your school logo to fit right in with the enthusiastic energy of your university campus. Notre Dame, Penn State, Butler, University of Oregon and University of Colorado are just a few of the colleges that are already providing Talkbox Privacy Booths to their students and faculty.
Bringing "the Quiet"
Facilitating a focused, studious environment is something that every university community is striving for, and Talkbox offers the highest quality solution with the best value and versatility. Take a look at which booth model may work best for you, and reach out to us so we can help you bring privacy, focus and quiet spaces to your school.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Peggy Shell who is the owner of Creative Alignments, a successful recruiting firm in Boulder Colorado. They have multiple TalkBoxes at their office and during the pandemic, she chose to get one for her home as well. We wanted to see how it was going.
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