You might wonder whether a relatively small campus and student body would need a tool like Scout — wouldn’t students discover available study spaces on their own, and quickly?
Bothell’s Growth Spurt
Not necessarily: Bothell is quickly outgrowing its historically small stature. Tim Rhoades, Director of Operations for UW Bothell Information Technologies, cites impressive statistics: “Bothell is the fastest growing campus in Washington State, and the fourth fastest in the nation. Over the past six to seven years, the student body has grown 150% (from 1800 to 5000 students). We have heard estimates that within the next five to seven years we will be at 7500 students.” Such rapid growth leads to rapid changes in available space: new buildings are leased, older buildings must be refurbished (which may leave them unusable for a time).
Getting Scout to Bothell
In late 2013 members of the Scout team–Janice Fournier, Research Scientist, and Lauren Manes, User Experience Designer–reached out to Bothell colleagues Tim Rhoades and Chelle Batchelor (Research Librarian and Head of Library Access Services) to explore creating Scout for UW Bothell. Although Tim and Chelle were keenly interested, a new building was breaking ground and it made more sense to wait until that space was completed before bringing Bothell into Scout. Soon after the new building was completed (in Fall 2014), concern from the students, voiced by the UW Bothell Student Senate, moved Scout high on the campus priority list. With another new building breaking ground and continuing growth of the student population on campus, students wanted help in finding places to study.
With this request from students, Tim Rhoades, who managed the Bothell Scout project, assembled the interested staff: Chelle Batchelor; Amy Van Dyke, Director of Physical Planning & Space Management; and Amy Stutesman, Administrator for UW Bothell/Cascadia Library. Amy Stutesman and Chelle gathered data for the libraries, while Amy Van Dyke performed that service for the other UW Bothell academic buildings. Mark Studer, the UW Bothell Campus Photographer, created many of the beautiful images. Stacy Fullwiler curated the images.
Bothell staff benefitted by being the third campus to come online with Scout. By the time Bothell and UW-IT began collaborating, the Scout team had gained insight from creating Scout for Seattle and Tacoma. “It was a process of learning, getting smarter about how to gather and upload data,” said Lauren. When first developing the tool, the Scout team did the (literal) leg work themselves, going out to buildings all over campus, taking photos, collecting information about available outlets, whiteboards, printers, proximity to food and coffee, and ambient light and noise, checking and re-checking data for the 250 spaces that now populate Seattle Scout.
Janice Fournier explained the process. “When we first created Scout and were working with our partners, we realized we had no shared language for describing spaces on campus, especially informal learning spaces. One of the first things Lauren and I did was to create a taxonomy of terms to describe nine distinct types of study spaces–a study room differs from a study area, for example, and a production studio has more specialized technology than a computer lab. (We’re still unsure about whether we need to add nook or alcove.) Most of the data we collected on spaces was determined by earlier input from students–they wanted to know about available resources, especially outlets and whiteboards, lighting, noise levels, and proximity to food and coffee. We also knew we had to gather basic info like the hours the building was open, whether or not a space could be reserved and how, and the latitude and longitude of a space so it could be located on a map. Our data collection spreadsheet in Google docs includes about 40 columns of data–quite a bear!”
When consulting with other institutions considering Scout, Janice and Lauren convey the importance and value of defining spaces. “People don’t normally think about ways to account for their informal space or how to ensure that they have a variety of spaces that meet student needs.” Going through the inventory process required to create Scout gives an institution a way to say, “we have X number of lounges, Y number of study rooms,” and so on.
“One of the things we learned when we worked with our Tacoma partners (Darcy Janzen, E-Learning Support Manager, and Tim Bostelle, Head of Library Information Technology) was how well our taxonomy of space types fit a different campus. When you look up spaces on the Seattle campus, you won’t find photos of benches in a hallway, because the students who worked with us on the app didn’t consider these study spaces. On the Tacoma campus, this was different. Lauren and I saw students studying in every available space. We also learned a lot in working with the Tacoma staff that helped us to solidify our naming conventions.
“By the time we got to working with the Bothell team, we’d ironed out highly efficient processes for gathering data and were able to share these in written documentation. Lauren did an extremely thorough job in writing out step-by-step instructions on how to gather each piece of data needed for a space entry, and how that data is used and displayed in the app.”
The Bothell staff commented about how much the spreadsheet simplified and streamlined the data collection and upload processes. Lauren also walked through the spaces with Bothell team members, advising on standardizing space names (e.g., all rooms in the same building follow the same naming convention) and standard terminology to describe space types that had been used in Scout for Seattle and Tacoma. In reflecting on the differences between Seattle and Bothell, Lauren observed, “At Seattle, using Scout might be more about discovery, finding new spaces. At Bothell, a student might have a catalog of spaces in her head, but may not know which ones have outlets or printers. Scout will also help Bothell students identify spaces that aren’t as well known.”
Amy Van Dyke adds, “With the growth of campus, study spaces are getting full! Scout can help students find alternative spots. For example, we have a couple of leased buildings that are adjacent to campus — students can reach them on foot in under 10 minutes — that aren’t as heavily used. Putting those spaces on Scout gives them more visibility.” Scout also helps students discover resources, such as computer labs, that are available to them but that they might not otherwise know about.
Getting It Done
Not surprisingly, the Bothell team were already quite familiar with the spaces prior to starting the work on Scout. The primary task, then, was collecting information about accessories and amenities. For the library spaces, the work required two walk-throughs, about three hours of defining spaces, thinking about how they wanted to represent the spaces, and collaborating with Janice and Lauren to standardize terminology. For spaces beyond the library, Amy Van Dyke estimated that the work took about eight hours. Filling out the spreadsheet prior to the walk through was key.
Members of the Bothell team reflected on what they learned during the Scout work. Sometimes it was a small but critical realization, such as the necessity of all spaces being numbered, or consistent naming (to which students contributed). The most interesting challenge was learning to think about spaces as students might see them. For instance, a very large area next to the library reference desk contains a study space with tables, an adaptive technology workstation, an area with 50 computers, and another space without tables. It’s important to visually and conceptually define these areas so that students intuitively know how to use them to their advantage.
No Space Unused
Lauren praised the Bothell staff’s ability to get the work done quickly. Janice added, “They did an incredible job — collecting complete data (including making decisions about what to include and how to name spaces) and photographs on 70 spaces in a matter of weeks.” They both noted the Bothell staff’s creativity in maximizing space that might have gone unused. Amy Van Dyke referred to these as “interstitial spaces” — spaces adjacent to elevators, at the ends of hallways, and outside of classrooms and labs that can be transformed into study spaces with the addition of a few pieces of comfortable, useful furniture.
The team also worked to define multi-use spaces, such as the large area of the Commons. By suggesting different areas with the placement of different types of furniture, a large space becomes defined into smaller functional areas that can support a variety of activities and uses.
Students have been pleased with the availability of Scout for Bothell. When asked what he wants students to know about Scout, Tim says, “Try it out! As the campus grows, Scout will become even more valuable. With each building we add, Scout will become more vital.”