How Lecture Theatre Seating Impacts Learning

Evertaut News

5 Sep, 2022

There are many elements students will consider when choosing a destination for their higher education – from the courses on offer, facilities and fees to the location, accommodation, and nightlife. One thing they probably won’t give any thought to however is the lecture theatre seating.

Although the amount of face-to-face teaching will vary dependent on the course of study undertaken, UK university students spend an average of 11-13 hours per week in lectures. This means over 3 years of learning, students can expect to spend over a thousand hours sitting in a lecture room, which makes lecture theatre seating a key part of their learning experience.

Whilst students may not give any fore thought to the seating available in lecture theatres, if it is fit for purpose, they will also not give it much thought once they are sitting in it. It’s usually only when there is a problem that they will turn their attention to the lecture theatre seating rather than focussing on what is being taught.

An uncomfortable seat or a poor view can lead to major distraction which can have a detrimental effect on learning. Similarly, even with clean sightlines, good quality lecture theatre seating will in time require attention as high frequency usage will eventually lead to wearing which in turn affects its comfort.

If you’re responsible for the maintenance or management of lecture theatres, it’s important to regularly check that the lecture theatre seating is in good order and facilitates a positive learning experience.

Lecture Theatre Seating – key features to provide an optimum learning experience:

  • Comfort – with students required to sit for an average of 1-2 hours per lecture, it’s important that lecture theatre seating offers a good level of comfort. Wooden, plastic or metal seats are not suitable when sitting for long periods and can start to feel very uncomfortable in a short space of time. Comfortable lecture theatre seating requires cushioned and upholstered seats and backs. Arms are an optional extra which can enhance comfort whilst also helping delineate personal space.
  • Clear sightlines – this is a critical element that can really affect how engaged students are in a lecture. If they can’t clearly see the material being presented to them it can cause frustration and lead to seat shuffling which then becomes a distraction to those around them; potentially obstructing the view of others. An uninterrupted view can usually only be achieved where lecture theatre seating is fitted on a tiered or raked floor.
  • Desk space – although desk requirements can vary dependent on the subjects being taught, it’s vital students have sufficient work space for any devices or materials they need to use during a lecture. In multi-purpose spaces where a desk isn’t always required, fold-away desks or writing tablets allow for increased personal space when not in use.

Examples of lecture theatre seating with 3 different desk types

  • Power and connectivity – integral power and charging sockets are becoming more commonplace in lecture theatres, ensuring students remain connected and can access teaching materials online during lectures. These are often incorporated into desktops or retrofitted underneath.
  • Personal space – seats need to be of adequate width so students don’t feel they are too close to each other. A lack of personal space can make people feel uncomfortable which again can detract from learning. This issue has also been exacerbated by the Coronavirus pandemic.
  • Disability access – whilst ease of access for wheelchair users and those with mobility issues is a legal requirement in new building design, it can unfortunately be lacking in many older universities where lecture theatre design did not take this into consideration. Not only does there need to be clear and sufficient access into the lecture theatre, provision should also be made for disabled students to sit alongside their peers; providing an inclusive learning environment where they do not feel alienated.
  • Durability – lecture theatres are high-traffic facilities which accommodate several different groups of students throughout every day. With such high-frequency usage, lecture theatre seating needs to be strong and hard-wearing to withstand the demands of modern higher education establishments.
  • Colour – The colour scheme used in a lecture theatre can have a big influence on the atmosphere created and the fabric colours chosen for seating obviously tie into this. Dark, uniform colours portray a more serious, professional ambience, pale or pastel colours make for a more relaxing space whilst bright and bold colours that pop give a more vibrant feel.

Lecture theatre seating installations in a range of different colours

Replacement Lecture Theatre Seating

If you want to ensure your lecture theatres provide an optimum learning environment, the above checklist provides a good point of reference when specifying new seating. If you need to increase or reduce the capacity of your lecture theatre your supplier should be able to design a new seating plan to accommodate your requirements whilst complying with safety and equality regulations.

New Build Lecture Theatres

For new build lecture theatres, an architect will usually design the tiered floor and seating plan which seating manufacturers can then work with. This should be designed to provide optimum sightlines alongside the specification for a good quality, comfortable seat. Fixed tiering is bespoke made for each establishment and seating manufacturers like Evertaut offer the design, manufacture and installation of this alongside their seating products and services.

Seating Refurbishment Options

In modern lecture theatres where seats have become worn but frames are still in good condition, seating refurbishment may be an option. Generally, lecture theatre seating refurbishment involves removing seats, backs and arms for reupholstery and replacing foams as necessary. Replacement desks can be fitted as part of this service which also provides the opportunity to incorporate any power sockets or charging points where they are not currently available.

Lecture theatre seating in a university lecture theatre shown before and after refurbishment

Whilst seating is a key feature in a lecture room, to create a truly optimum learning environment there are other elements such as fittings and décor, access, acoustics and audio-visual equipment that equally need to be addressed with relevant specialists.

Evertaut is a long-established manufacturer of tiering and lecture theatre seating. We provide a complete service from design to installation including site surveys (where required) and seating plans. We offer a range of lecture seating designs which can be tailored to requirements with a choice of desk options and other features.

To make an enquiry about lecture theatre seating or tiering, please complete and submit the short form below.