Positive effects of indoor environmental conditions on students and their performance in higher education classrooms: A between-groups experiment

Authors Henk W. Brink, W.P. Krijnen, Marcel Loomans, Mark Mobach, Helianthe Kort
Published in Elsevier Science of The Total Environment
Publication date 2023
Research groups Technology for Healthcare Innovations
Type Article


This study explores if multiple alterations of the classrooms' indoor environmental conditions, which lead to environmental conditions meeting quality class A of Dutch guidelines, result in a positive effect on students' perceptions and performance. A field study, with a between-group experimental design, was conducted during the academic course in 2020–2021. First, the reverberation time (RT) was lowered in the intervention condition to 0.4 s (control condition 0.6 s). Next, the horizontal illuminance (HI) level was raised in the intervention condition to 750 lx (control condition 500 lx). Finally, the indoor air quality (IAQ) in both conditions was improved by increasing the ventilation rate, resulting in a reduction of carbon dioxide concentrations, as a proxy for IAQ, from ~1100 to <800 ppm. During seven campaigns, students' perceptions of indoor environmental quality, health, emotional status, cognitive performance, and quality of learning were measured at the end of each lecture using questionnaires. Furthermore, students' objective cognitive responses were measured with psychometric tests of neurobehavioural functions. Students' short-term academic performance was evaluated with a content-related test. From 201 students, 527 responses were collected. The results showed that the reduction of the RT positively influenced students' perceived cognitive performance. A reduced RT in combination with raised HI improved students' perceptions of the lighting environment, internal responses, and quality of learning. However, this experimental condition negatively influenced students' ability to solve problems, while students' content-related test scores were not influenced. This shows that although quality class A conditions for RT and HI improved students' perceptions, it did not influence their short-term academic performance. Furthermore, the benefits of reduced RT in combination with raised HI were not observed in improved IAQ conditions. Whether the sequential order of the experimental conditions is relevant in inducing these effects and/or whether improving two parameters is already beneficial, is unknown.

On this publication contributed

  • Helianthe Kort | Professor | Research group Technology for Healthcare Innovations
    Helianthe Kort
    • Professor
    • Research group: Technology for Healthcare Innovations

Language English
Published in Elsevier Science of The Total Environment
Key words emotional status, health, indoor air quality, horizontal illuminance, reverberation time, quality of learning
Digital Object Identifier 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.161813

Technology for Healthcare Innovations