The learning commons will combine tutors, research aids and librarians into one centralized location on each campus.
The aim of the project is to create a space to help all students, traditional, nontraditional and graduate alike, in whatever they need to succeed at USM. “It’s not just for students who want to pass a class but is also for students who are doing fine and want to do better than fine,” said USM Learning Coordinator Paul Dexter. “Students drive the learning experience.”
The Portland location will be on the second floor of the Glickman Family library, while the Gorham learning commons will be on the bottom floor of the Gorham Campus Library.
According to a business proposal for funds for the project from the University of Maine System Strategic Investment Fund, the budget for the project is estimated at $214,700.
Dexter said the proposal for resources from the Strategic Investment Fund was turned down. Funding instead came from USM’s regular operating budget.
Currently the resources that will be offered at the learning commons are not centralized in one place. Tutoring, for example, is offered in different places on each campus by individual departments. Dexter said the learning commons will allow students access to research librarians, to get help with tutoring and more all in one location on each campus. There is currently an “information commons” on the third floor of the Glickman Family Library, but Dexter said in the business proposal that the learning commons will be an “evolution” on the information commons.
Phil Rotolo a senior Japanese history major and an ESL tutor said the previous model was not conducive for learning because of the separation of departments. “It was a little frustrating, because you want to put the most of your energy there and focus on student learning,” he said.
The new space will feature group and faculty study rooms, movable furniture, study pods and an A/V “vault,” a sound proof recording room for visual and audio recording.
According to the business plan, the learning commons is not just a physical space, but a philosophy: “It will build upon existing successes, increase efficiencies and partnerships among departments, centralize academic support services, and become an extension of the classroom that fosters a culture of learning at our institution,” Dexter wrote.
According to the proposal, the project aims to produce measurable results, including increasing the usage of available writing and math tutoring services by 20 percent and online by 50 percent.