Collaborating for Student Success

By: Travis Myers

Early in 2016, Student Residences at Memorial University started to envision a way to better support students living on campus. The original question of how to apply better technology upgrades for residence computer labs turned into a great project and partnership between the Student Residences unit, Information Technology Services (ITS), Memorial University Library and Ancillary Services.

In summer 2016, a committee was struck with stakeholders that had a vested interest in developing a space that would provide a desktop computer lab, printing center, campus card support, wireless internet support, tutoring center and food service options.  Memorial University operates several learning commons on campus which provide an array of academic and tech support services.  It was proposed that a space in residence, open to the entire campus would be a great way to support residence students given the proximity to their living space, but would allow the rest of the university community to congregate, work and spend time on a part of campus that they would not normally visit.

Working together with the various units, everyone was able to provide their expertise to what students, faculty, staff and visitors would want in such a space.  Funding was applied for and a grant was issued to get the Hatcher Learning Commons off the ground.  The space would allow for a computer lab, booth type seating for study space, collaborative work areas, as well as a sizable tutoring section.  With Ancillary Operations teaming up on this initiative, the project allowed for the University’s food service provider to open a Jumping Bean Cafe which sells premium coffee products and a lunch menu daily and a Smoke’s Poutinerie which offers late night food operations twice a week.

The Hatcher Learning Commons opened in September 2016 and has been a success with students being able to access the services from 2pm-2am daily.  Staffed by students, it has been a great opportunity have a wide variety of work experience for these student with the clients they support.  Staff at the service desk will provide IT support to those visiting the commons, provide assistance to students who have questions about residence operations, issues campus cards, liaise with academic advising for students who are seeking academic support and any other issues that happen to occur when a client has a question or concern.  There is a strong relationship between the staff of the Library Commons and the Hatcher Learning Commons to ensure regardless of which site you visit, the service level is the same.  Collaboration of the student staff teaching and supporting each other has been a great thing to witness as it has provided them the opportunity to show and strengthen their leadership skills, provided an opportunity for independence in the work setting and in turn the client's experience has been very positive.

One of the greatest student supports offered at the Hatcher Learning Commons is the free tutoring service.  Students who are strong academically and have previous teaching and tutoring experience are hired to provide one on one and group tutoring to any student at Memorial University, with a focus on first year students and first year courses.  The Hatcher Learning Commons offers tutoring in English, chemistry, physics, biology, math and engineering, 7 days a week.  As the semester calendar changes and there is a pressure on tutoring, there is the ability to offer group tutoring sessions and increase frequency to meet those demands if needed.  This space has allowed for a large amount of group study and peer tutoring because of the layout of the space and the atmosphere allows for this to happen naturally.

The committee is very pleased and excited about the response from the university community for this new learning space and is very excited about how students have subscribed and utilized the services.  Moving forward, there are opportunities to bring in more academic support partners and as always, upgrades to learning technology to continuously support the users of the learning commons.  It has been a pleasure having so many hands working together to ensure that the students visiting the Hatcher Learning Commons have the best experience possible to support their academic success.