Learning Commons focuses on student success and accessby Jan Janes on Oct 7, 2016
Commons: a shared space frequented by all, benefiting both the individual and the group.
Gavilan College Learning Commons developed out of the existing Writing Center and the faculty's desire to offer expanded tools for their students. With a recently secured Title V grant, the Learning Commons looks to build inroads supporting classroom learning, student research, writing and citation skills.
According to Megan Wong, English instructor and staff member building the Learning Commons curriculum, the center offers a flexible, technology-rich learning environment. "Students are much more likely to use a resource if they have physically been in the space before," she said.
Megan Wong, left, welcomes new students to the Learning Commons.
The program offers collaboration with faculty and staff and provides just in time intervention for key skills.
The Writing Center, long a magnet for both students who love to write and students still learning to write, was the original program offering student support.
"The best writing tutors are often people who struggle and are under-confident with their writing," said Kimberly Jean Smith, English instructor and Writing Center coordinator. "They can relate most intently with other writers' struggles and offer a variety of strategies and approaches."
According to English instructor Tiffany Palsgrove, the benefits are almost endless. "I use Learning Commons for its access to students. They all have a computer, can follow along, and students retain more with hands on learning," she said. The technology rich environment is ideal for conveying lessons.
"Once students are introduced to the Learning Commons, they are less intimidated to return and seek assistance on their own," Palsgrove added.
Student tutor/assistant support is a key draw
Writing Center sessions with individual tutors help with citations, formatting, all facets of writing assignments. Learning Commons assistants train in specific classrooms on specific assignments.
"I've seen people who come in regularly excel at their papers," said Grace Grossman, Writing Center coordinator. "The great thing about the space is students come in and get advice from their peers."
Learning Commons helps students learn writing fundamentals
"I have used it often with all my classes," said English instructor Jessica Gatewood. "Library staff and the English department collaborate to help basic skills students." She noted that having the space to spread out and having the computers and laptops available help them use and understand software programs.
The Learning Commons also offers supplemental learning, placing a model student in a class to work closely with students to improve retention and success rates.
Head librarian Doug Achterman (left, kneeling) provides instruction to a team creating a shared wiki.
Student tutors in both the Learning Commons and the Writing Center benefit as well.
Working with students helps our own writing," according to David Crowther, a third semester writing assistant. Even after receiving the training, exposure to other students' work impacts the tutors. "Seeing different styles of writing gives me a view I wouldn't see otherwise, allowing me to test my own writing skills."
With its trained student assistants, quiet study rooms, invitation for faculty collaboration and accessible technology tools, the Learning Commons and Writing Center offer a rich learning environment to supplement classroom instruction.
"Think of the Learning Commons as a well organized studying machine, here to be as much service as it can be," said Grossman.