Learning Commons Hits Its Stride

2018-01-04 11:19:02 - Feature

Learning Commons staff Learning Commons staff

In the Fall of 2015, Coe College launched the Learning Commons, a holistic learning environment that provides support for academics, life and career planning, community engagement, teaching and learning.

Located in Stewart Memorial Library, the Learning Commons is at the heart of the campus, making it an easy and accessible resource for students. Associate Dean for Student Academics, Gina Hausknecht, says that the Learning Commons has many goals, but in the past year, the faculty and staff who are part of the program have focused in on improvement of first-to-second year retention rates.

As part of this new aim, the Learning Commons staff has championed several programs to continue to aid students and give them the tools they need to succeed.

A new initiative called Connected Consultants, consists of staff members in the Learning Commons, Center of Creativity & Careers and the library partnering with FYS classes to create each incoming student’s personalized support network. Connected Consultants meet with students individually, lead at least one academic skills session and offer some social activity for each FYS class. Overall, the feedback from this program has been positive, with some students even seeking out their consultants.

Another approach to helping students persist to graduation comes in the form of a First Generation Student steering committee. This program, while still evolving, is motivated by student initiative and will focus on creation of programs and activities to specifically support this demographic of Coe students.

Provost Paula O'Loughlin commends this initiative and said, "at the base, the Learning Commons is about providing more students a better chance to persist and thrive at Coe. Studies have shown that students who have historically been underrepresented in higher education are more likely to need those services to help them thrive at college. There is no question of intellectual abilities, so the web of support helps them learn how 'to do' college with confidence. Without the Learning Commons services, these students are more likely to give up and drop out with debt for their effort. By offering these services through the Learning Commons, we are helping all our students have the best chance to become Coe alumni/ae."

Beyond the new programs, the current Learning Commons departments have been flourishing. Visits to the Writing Center, the Testing Center and the Accessibility Coordinator have increased since 2015 and students have been responding well to the numerous improvements made to the Tutoring program. Mia Resa, Coe student, says "The testing center makes it possible for my scores to reflect my abilities, not my disabilities."

All of the hard work of the Learning Commons staff and faculty has paid off as the first-to-second retention rate increased from 75.1% to 81.3% since the fall of 2016. These numbers are encouraging to faculty and staff alike and are even more incentive to continue striving for higher numbers.

Hausknecht is excited about this improvement and said, "I am constantly impressed by the creative and energetic focus of the Learning Commons staff on the academic success and overall well-being of our students. Students are taking up the invitation to contribute to building a more dynamic, responsive and supportive academic community through initiatives like RISE, the new First Generation steering committee, and Micro-Grants. Staff members across the college have been tremendously thoughtful about how we can all contribute to helping students make great choices, persist in the face of inevitable challenges, and make progress toward graduation. The 6-point uptick in our first-to-second year retention rate this fall speaks to concerted engagement at all levels and in all areas and reflects a campus community dedicated to a holistic liberal arts experience that recognizes and fosters the potential in each student."

The Learning Commons staff and faculty are proud and excited to accomplish their goals in this and future years, and the campus community is in full support!