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Will Coworking Spaces Be The New Classrooms?

Geekdom Robotics Challenge at Dwight Middle School. (Image: Dustin Larimer)

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Web design, programming, and new technology are constantly evolving, resulting in students entering classrooms with knowledge that is already obsolete. How do we bridge the gap between what the education system teaches us and what the new generations need in order to succeed in the 21st century? The good news is: even universities have discovered the benefits of coworking. It is beginning to attract more and more students and perhaps it will soon become the primary way to educate the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

As entrepreneurs, it seems that coworking is an appropriate response to the needs of today's students. Concerned with the success of their students, some universities have now chosen to partner with coworking spaces or to create their own, such as H4 and Kosilab. Other coworking spaces, like Geekdom and the Betamore Reno Collective, show that coworking communities represent a new source of knowledge and innovation that is more connected to the real world, which is something that has been lacking in the universities.

A third place between home and school: coworking spaces for students

Firstly, it is very likely that coworking was made for students. We can easily see this just by looking at the number of students working in cafes, libraries and other « third » places that have an internet connection.

Space Skylight Phoenix tells parents that a membership to the space would "make a great holiday gift for your serious scholars and future business leaders". The benefits for students are indeed numerous:

- Working in less crowded areas, such as cafes or libraries.
- Ability to work for more extended periods of time
- Ability to learn about entrepreneurship
- Hands-on experience from a community of experts
- Putting theory into practice
- Conducting personal projects in a motivating work environment
- Access to internship opportunities and employment

These benefits suggest that innovation and creativity generated in coworking communities may very well transfer over to universities. However, the universities also have an important role to play.

Universities beginning to embark on a coworking adventure

Some universities, such as North Carolina H4 or Kosilab Siegen created their own coworking spaces for students who are signed up for the summer semester. The two spaces are focused primarily on the interaction between students. H4 puts emphasis on events and the ability to experience hands-on training from professionals, and Kosilab advocates for the same. The primary goal is student success, because in both cases it is professional counseling that led to these initiatives.

While many libraries are still filled with students, coworking spaces can be an interesting alternative, as was the case in Dresden. Indeed, SLUB, the library of the Technical University of Dresden, has seen a significant increase in visitors each year. Applications for desk or workrooms widely exceeded capacity. Faced with this problem, SLUB has since partnered with Neonworx in 2011. Neonworx is a coworking space located near the campus, and every 3 months 15 students are given the chance to work there, while simultaneously having access to digital library resources.

But in some cases, even if universities find more space, it is still difficult for them to find a community of experts outside of coworking spaces.

>> Next page: When coworking spaces replace universities

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