Student learning takes place both inside and outside of the classroom, yet a general understanding of student-user experiences in spaces outside of a classroom and the effect of those spaces on student experiences is limited. A collaborative research project conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology and Herman Miller, Inc., aimed to understand the modes of use and behaviors among students at the G. Wayne Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons (Clough Commons). In particular, researchers wanted to study the relationship between physical space and the user experience in that space. Researchers referred to this as the “lived experience” of Clough Commons. The research took place over the course of a semester, and methods included the application of digital ethnography tools, observation, walk-up user interviews, and analysis of existing building-use data. From our research, we developed 11 use modes that describe the user activities and behaviors in Clough Commons. The use modes are meant to help designers take a more empathetic approach to design and problem solving by understanding the lived experiences of students within physical spaces. Use modes can also uncover opportunities for improving the environment to best serve student engagement and interaction. In this article, we discuss the use modes and design recommendations from our research at Clough Commons and how they may be applicable to other learning environments.
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