The Arnold Bernhard Library is under construction, expanding its north wing to create a larger space for the Learning Center, which will be moving from the first floor of Tator Hall to the Arnold Bernhard Library and will be expanded into the Learning Commons.
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Delohery hopes the construction will be completed by July 1, so that the staff members will have sufficient time to prepare before the fall 2013 semester.
“As the demand for the Learning Center grew, we needed new space,” said Andrew Delohery, associate vice president of retention and academic success. “We came to the conclusion that we don’t want just a better tutoring center, but to take the Learning Center to the next level by providing an opportunity for students to use what they’ve learned at Quinnipiac.”
Delohery, along with Executive Vice President Mark Thompson and a group of faculty and staff members, recognized the need to create a space for students to apply their knowledge in more than just tests or quizzes. The Learning Commons was planned around a central area where students, faculty or staff members can interact with each other.
“The central area can be arranged into work spaces, lecture venue or any other need,” said Bernard Grindel, assistant director of the Learning Center. “It’s open to possibilities, such as poster sessions or research presentations in a space that is linked to other direct practices of learning. There will always be a buzz of intellectual activity happening.”
Grindel said that the name for the Learning Commons comes from the idea of town greens or commons, which are places where everyone in the community can collaborate openly and feel welcome to share their ideas.
The multi-use space will also house the elements of the Learning Center that students are familiar with, including peer tutoring, study groups and academic counseling.
“The big thing for students to understand is that all the services they’ve come to know will be the same, just with some upgrades,” Grindel said. “The expanded space will create a very active learning environment, and one that is much more inviting as well.”
In addition, the QU Seminar and Writing Across the Curriculum offices will be located in the north wing and will be collaborating with the Learning Commons.
“One of the goals of the Learning Commons is to work closely with other units on campus,” Grindel said. “The adjacency of different services aligns with the notion that as a student, it’s not like you have purely one interest or are only trying to find one specific book. You’re doing all of these things, so it makes sense for support services to be close as possible.”
Other services and student resources may also eventually move to the north wing.
“I think this is a wonderful idea,” said STAR Program Coordinator Angelica Walter. “I feel like we are slowly expanding the library for what the purpose of a library actually is. The Learning Center is so important, and I feel like expanding it will offer more opportunities for students who need them.”
Delohery said that the goal of the Learning Commons is to teach the difference between lower order thinking, which is simply collecting information, and higher order thinking, which uses that information to create knowledge and apply it to a job or internship.
The Learning Commons will occupy the majority of the north wing, while the Executive Vice President’s office and other administrative offices will be in a separate area of the wing.
“I think it’s great that they are building an extension of the Learning Center in the library,” said junior Kirsten Inlaw, a student employee at the Technology Center in the library. “It’s going to provide direct access of extra help to students who are already in the library studying.”
Grindel hopes that the informality of an open, collaborative area will not only provide access to tutoring help close to the library, but also take the pressure off of students attending office hours with their professors.
“Office hours are intimidating to students because they feel like they have to go,” Grindel said. “If you see your professor in class or at their office hours, they’re an authority figure. What we want to create is a neutral meeting environment, like the Learning Commons, so that professors become more approachable like peer tutors.”
The Learning Commons will also be incorporating academic advising into their services this coming fall.
“We will have peer advisors, who are essentially students helping other students get ready to be advised,” Delohery said. “We are trying to figure out what the peer advisors can do so that the time spent with an expert advisor is more productive, like teaching students to navigate WebAdvisor so they are well-prepared for that moment with their advisor.”