Learning Commons Q/A with Dr. A

Dr. ArévaloHow would you describe the Learning Commons at Eastern Washington University?

The Learning Commons will be a way for Eastern Washington University to enhance academic support for all students at the university. It will be a student- centered space, where support staff can create an environment that will allow students to work collaboratively and participate in academic improvement activities. The Learning Commons will give students from different disciplines and fields of study the opportunity to enhance their skills and to work together in ways they never could before on campus.

Why is the Learning Commons an important initiative for EWU?

As you know, student success is not only my top priority, but it is a central tenet to the university’s new strategic plan. By focusing on students, the Learning Commons will create an environment that will best support their way of learning – which ultimately should produce successful results for each student. It is our opportunity to bring critical resources to help students be more successful in meeting the demands of our faculty and the curriculum that they have developed.

How will the Learning Commons benefit Eastern students?

The Learning Commons will give students the opportunity to draw on a multiple resources. In Phase I of the project, scheduled to be completed in time for the start of fall quarter, we will have relocated the Writers’ Center, the Program Leading to Undergraduate Success (PLUS) and the Multi-Media Lab (formally the MARS Lab) to the Commons.  Right now, those services are located in three different areas in two different buildings on the Cheney campus.  Students will be able to access all those services by just walking into the first floor of the JFK Library come September.

As we move forward through successive phases we will be able to add those services students have indicated they want placed in the Commons. For example, Career Services, General University Academic Advising, the Math Lab and Disabled Student Services have all indicated they wish to have a presence in the Commons.  That doesn’t mean that all those services will move entirely to the Commons but they will have space there where they too can help students. The Commons will become a place where a student’s entire learning career at EWU will be supported.  They will be able to move seamlessly from one service to another. I think that is a very exciting concept.

How do you see faculty fitting into the Learning Commons concept?

A number of faculty are already using the three services moving into the Commons in Phase I. Several faculty make use of the Multi-Media Lab (now MARS); a number make use of PLUS tutorial services, by setting up small group tutorials for their students through PLUS for some of the more challenging subjects taught on campus; and many faculty refer their students to the Writers’ Center. Further, some faculty also make use of the Center to get support when they are writing grants or working on other special projects. I see all those opportunities expanding for faculty as the visibility of the programs are increased because they are in the Commons.

Moving forward, I can see real opportunities for faculty and student, as well as faculty-to-faculty collaboration taking place in the Commons. Most important, this will provide a place for faculty to refer students who are not meeting their success expectations and/or who want to achieve excellence in the classes they are taking.

Why is the JFK Library the ideal spot for the Learning Commons?

There are a number of reasons why we decided to place the Learning Commons in JFK.  First, the Library is centrally located on the Cheney campus and provided accessible hours beyond the traditional 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Second, it is easily identifiable even for new people on or visitors to our campus. Third, and perhaps most importantly, libraries themselves have always been places on a college campus where knowledge is not just stored but shared. That alone makes JFK the ideal place for the Learning Commons.

Will the library still function as a place for study, research and exploration?

Absolutely, I see the Learning Commons expanding opportunities for study, research and exploration, because students will have the opportunity to explore and create knowledge in some new and exciting ways. Central to the mission of the Learning Commons is collaboration; this new space in the Library will be a vibrant, flexible space where students can not only learn but share knowledge and work on improving individual skills.

I do want to reassure students and faculty that there will still be plenty of quiet study areas, particularly on the upper and lower levels of the Library, so those students who need a quiet environment will still have many places to choose from where they can quietly work on their homework.

Final thoughts?

Yes, there have been a number of people who have worked very hard to get Phase I of this project off the ground and I think we owe them a big thank you. I don’t think everyone knows just how many divisions and offices have been involved in the process. In addition to Multi-Media (OIT), the Writers’ Center and PLUS; Facilities and Planning, Academic Affairs, Thirsty Minds, Career Services and Disability Support Services have all contributed greatly to the concept and implementation of the Learning Commons.

The one group I really think has worked very hard to make the Learning Commons a reality is the Library faculty, students and staff. They have really gone the extra mile to make this project happen. They cleared the space of the books and shelving to make room for the Commons and they have offered a really wonderful vision for the Commons as a place where knowledge will be made not just consumed.

Editor’s Note:

For individuals who have further questions about the Learning Commons, we would like to refer you to the Frequently Asked Questions about the Learning Commons in the announcement portion of 24/7.