TWU launches new Learning Commons

It’s a Thursday morning on the TWU campus. In a bright open-concept space, a student lounges in a semi-private cocoon chair, laptop open and ready on the small computer table. Another works with a writing coach in a nearby office. Across the room, a group of students sit around a table, studying. Trinity Western University’s new Learning Commons is open and ready to serve.

A one-stop-shop for students’ learning needs, the Learning Commons brings together student services—from writing coaching to academic advising to career counselling—in one place. Everything about the newly-redesigned space was considered with students in mind.

“We wanted to normalize the idea of getting help,” says Catharine Penfold Navarro, Ph.D., TWU’s Vice Provost of Teaching and Learning. “All students run into challenges when learning—because learning is challenging! And when that happens, we want students to know there are people and services designed to help them succeed in their learning.”

The idea to create a barrier-free, student-centric space began several years ago, with the formation of the Educational Support Services Task Force. The group’s focus was on providing an atmosphere of inclusion and support that helps foster the students’ sense of belonging. This summer, all the plans came together in the culmination of the Task Force’s One Space, One Team, One Focus model.

While all of the services had been available to students prior to the launch of the Learning Commons, they were spread out in different areas across campus—and often only for those with an identified need. The new model brings them together in a designated space and gives students easy access to the support they need.

Eventually, the plan is to relocate the Learning Commons to Norma Marion Alloway Library, as part of a larger library renovation plan. But the university didn’t want to wait for that expansion to roll out the new Learning Commons, so over the summer the former Career Centre was completely redesigned and reopened under the new model in September.

“We see the model providing greater visibility for student support services, as well as a synergistic response to academic student support,” Penfold Navarro says.

Wendy Delamont Lees

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