Stauffer home to new Learning Commons

Students work in the new Learning Commons, which features 150 new computers and a variety of learning services.
Students work in the new Learning Commons, which features 150 new computers and a variety of learning services.

The month of May usually marks the beginning of a calm period at Stauffer Library—exams are over and most students have left for the summer. This year, however, May marked the initial construction of the Queen’s Learning Commons (QLC), a long-term project that, when completed, will combine common services, including Learning Strategies Development, the Writing Centre, Special Readers’ Services and IT Services under one roof.

Phase I of the project was completed Sept. 5, resulting in a transformation of the first floor of Stauffer Library as the new home of the QLC, which currently includes Learning Strategies Outreach and the Writing Centre.

The project means Stauffer Library has undergone a technological facelift. Library visitors are now greeted by a large screen displaying upcoming QLC events.

The first floor also contains 150 new computers and a section resembling restaurant booths, which has been specifically designated for group work.

Martha Whitehead, associate university librarian, said the main reason for the construction of the QLC was to make people more aware of the services the University has to offer. She said she hopes the project will enhance communication and interaction among students, faculty and staff.

“[The QLC] provides learning needs that all fit together—research, learning strategies and technology,” she said. “They are all bundled together to meet the needs of students.” Whitehead added the QLC provides a welcoming learning environment that is extremely accessible.

The Writing Centre moved into the QLC as part of Phase I.

Established in 1986, the Writing Centre offers services including one-on-one tutorial sessions for undergraduate and graduate students in all disciplines. It was formerly located at 140 Stuart St.

Rebecca Lunsted, ArtSci ’07, said she has found this service useful in the past.

“It’s helpful to be able to obtain an unbiased opinion of your writing from an outside source—friends can only do so much,” she said.

Maureen Garvie, a senior tutor at the centre, said that despite the time it has taken to adjust, she already feels the positive integration of the Writing Centre as part of the QLC.

Garvie said that many students have already discovered the Writing Centre’s new location, keeping tutors occupied.

“We can’t afford to be any busier,” she said. “There is more student demand than we can deal with. We can’t give everyone a tutorial, even if they want one.”

Learning Strategies Development also falls under the QLC umbrella. The program, a division of Health, Counselling and Disability Services (HCDS), aims to assist all students in developing academic skills through three components: Learning Strategies Outreach, Learning Strategies Consultation and Peer Mentoring.

Peer Mentoring, unique to HCDS, is a program in which upper-year students who have been trained teach academic survival skills mentor fellow students to improve their study habits.

Learning Strategies Counselling allows for individuals to make appointments with a Learning Strategies Counsellor to improve their academic success. This is done through mastering course concepts and developing effective methods of communicating what has been learned.

Elspeth Christie, the Learning Strategies Outreach Coordinator, runs the Peer Learning Assistant program, working closely with a group of student volunteers to help fellow students in need of academic support.

Kent Fenwick, ComSci ’07, a Peer Learning Assistant with the QLC, said he primarily provides outreach to first-year students in residence by giving presentations.

Fenwick said he believes the service will thrive in its new location.

“Like anything new, it will take some time for people to catch on, but it is already starting,” he said. “We have never been busier with residence presentations and concerned students just dropping by for some quick advice during their study breaks at Stauffer.”

With Phase I complete, planning for Phase II is now underway.

Whitehead said this Phase II is crucial, because it marks the union of IT Sales and Services with the IT Support Centre, a more fully integrated Help Desk, Special Readers’ Services—which provides adaptive technology for people with special needs—additional group study rooms due to high student demand and an electronic classroom. Web-booking will also be available for group study rooms via the QLC website.

“Bringing these final things together will make everything seamless,” Whitehead said.

This project has received funding from the Library, the University’s 2005 Renovations and Alterations fund, and the Office of the Vice-Principal (Academic).

No date is set for the starting of Phase II, as it depends largely on funding, Whitehead said.

“We’re still working on identifying sources of funding,” she said.

Lunsted said the amalgamation of services is useful, especially for students who have busy schedules.

“Having everything all in one place makes life much easier,” she said.

A grand opening for the completion of Phase I of the QLC is tentatively planned for early December.

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