The emerging trend dynamic work approaches is resulting in more open space designs at workplaces–a trend that is now being accelerated by the pandemic. This requires an objective understanding of how shared spaces are actually used, both in normal times and in response to a public health situation such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of this research was therefore to collect and analyse real- time occupancy patterns in open learning spaces before and after building policy restrictions were implemented due to the COVID pandemic. Based on three distinct spaces in a university building in Cincinnati, USA, time-simultaneous occupant counts were supplemented with position data from computer-vision cameras used to analyse occupancy patterns, physical distances between occupants, group formations, and occupancy duration. We found significant changes in occupant counts and spatial distribution between the two time periods. We analysed how architectural design elements influenced social behaviour, i.e. in this context the physical distances, group formations, and occupancy duration assigned to individual occupants within different physical contexts of the building. While the primary purpose was to study the impact of the pandemic on social behaviour within buildings, we noted essential design challenges for promoting human well-being within higher education facilities.