Throughout my career as a consultant and technology leader, I’ve found that learner success is heavily influenced by the environment that surrounds the student. From the centuries-old colleges and halls of Cambridge to the canopied urban quads of Chicago, institutions have continuously invested in drawing scholars, educators and learners together within a supportive environment to collectively discover, explore, create and apply knowledge.

Out of necessity, the environment generates its own unique culture and spawns various subcultures, each distinct but bound together by the institution itself. As the institution grows, different environments emerge that cling to the different subcultures —

  • the “undergraduate culture”
  • the “academic culture”
  • the “athletic culture”
  • the “library culture”
  • the “staff culture”

These different cultures often form their own distinct and separte environments — residence life, schools and academic departments, recreational centers, intercollegiate sports facilities, libraries, research parks, data centers, administrative offices, etc. Together these environments coalesce into the learning ecosystem that shapes and defines the institution.

As a Q101 radio announcer said during a live back-to-school remote from the University of Chicago, “just stepping foot onto this campus I feel 10 percent smarter.” His comment reflected the palpable “vibe” present on a campus — the vibe of its ecosystem.

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