New space meant to be a one-stop place for student services
Augustana’s new learning commons is now open to students and plans to improve the space continue to grow and develop.
Randal Nickel, executive director of student life, said that the idea for the learning commons surfaced a year ago after Augustana staff attended a presentation about student services philosophy, arranged by Dean Allen Berger.
“One of the things suggested was to take a look at having a place that was a bit more of a one-stop where students could access a range of services,” said Nickel.
Nickel said that learning commons are used in many university settings and are meant to be a comfortable and interactive learning space. “It is kind of a mix between a library and a forum. So, it is a social space, but, it’s also a learning space,” said Nickel.
The idea to create the learning commons was finalized in late 2016. “This space rose to the top as the one place on campus we thought we could make it work,” said Nickel.
There are three main ways that the learning commons can be used. “Students have expressed a lot of need for spaces where they can work collaboratively,” noted Nickel.
“As we change through the new calendar, there is more collaborative work that students are doing,” said Nickel. “We wanted to create a space where students could feel comfortable and have the chance to work with others.”
The first section of the learning commons is a workshop for facilitated learning space located by the ravine windows. “It is where someone will be leading some kind of learning, but not like a traditional classroom,” said Nickel.
“I can see a range of things happening there from training workshops, such as first aid all the way to yoga,” said Nickel. “That would be a space that is bookable, so the facilitator can book the space and use it for a period of time.”
The second section of the learning commons is the middle space. “ Trellis’ will act as dividers between that space and the middle area which will be a student-focused collaborative zone,” said Nickel.
Students will not be able to book this space, however, students will be invited to use the ares and manipulate the atmosphere of the space.
There will also be some new additions to the learning commons. “We brought in whiteboards which can be moved around to various locations. There is going to be electrical plug-ins and phone charging stations added,” said Nickel.
The third section of the learning commons is the front space. “The shelving unit with the plants is the natural divider for the front space,” said Nickel.
Nickel said that the front space is a good welcome reception area. “Eventually, Jo-Anna will have a center out there, and there will be some seating as a waiting space. People coming in for appointment will be able to wait there,” said Nickel.
There is also a wellness component to the learning commons. “We have the counsellors and chaplaincy up here because creating that wellness component is important,” said Nickel.
Another phase of the learning commons is connecting to the library. “We want to work on something that will provide access to the library. There will be more mobility,” said Nickel.
Administration hopes to have the learning commons fully operational by January 2018. “Until everything gets finished, the space is wide open for students,” said Nickel.
“We are planning an open house because we want to open the new labs and the learning commons together. We are tentatively looking at dates early in November,” said Nickel.
The learning commons are open Monday to Friday between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.