John Visone uses the Learning Commons daily as a way to maintain his high marks. Visone is about to earn his Associate in Science degree and move on to pharmacy school.
Photo by Corey Minkanic/special to College of DuPage
Learning Commons: One-Stop Student Help
The Beatles didn’t know it, but they wrote the theme song for COD’s Learning Commons:
“I get by with a little help from my friends.”
The Learning Commons works on a simple premise: Many students need help from time to time and—if you put that help in one place—students seeking academic assistance in onearea will learn about other forms of help while they’re there.
At the Learning Commons, students can find tutoring when they need it. If math, writing, reading or speech assistance can help a student catch up or get ahead, the Learning Commons is the place to go. Students can also get help with developmental English, navigating the campus or using course software.
Students get this assistance from faculty or staff members, peer or professional tutors.
At COD’s main campus, the Learning Commons is located in a new facility on the second floor of the Student Resource Center. There are also locations at COD’s Bloomingdale, Naperville and Westmont regional centers.
COD President Dr. Robert L. Breuder compared the front entrance of the Learning Commons to a hospital emergency room.
“The front desk is like a triage center,” said Breuder, whose office is right down the hall. “Staff members ask detailed questions to determine the best option for assistance.” What’s more, employees from throughout the Learning Commons periodically take turns behind that “triage desk” so they understand the range of services and student needs.
Some mistakenly believe that the Learning Commons is only for those who are struggling in their courses. Diane Szakonyi, Learning Commons director, said that’s not the case at all.
“A misconception is that students with academic challenges are the only ones seeking out these services,” said Szakonyi. “In fact, the Learning Commons helps students who are among our best and brightest and want to achieve more.”
“A lot of people think you go to the Learning Commons if you’re failing. In the beginning, that was how I looked at it because I was getting a C in my math class, and I just needed to pass the class. As I progressed through my classes, it became the flip side—now I’m getting an A, and I want to maintain this A,” said John Visone, about to complete his Associate in Science degree and take the pharmacy school entrance exam. “It’s amazing how it works. I really don’t think I could have gotten this far without the Learning Commons.”
To help introduce the Learning Commons to students, COD faculty members can bring their classes to the Learning Commons for tours.
If the numbers are any indication, the Learning Commons is a big hit. During the 2011-2012 academic year, 20,000 students received math assistance. In fact, staff members estimate that 15 to 20 percent of all math students typically use this service at least once, for everything from development courses to calculus.
Other Learning Commons resources include group tutoring, supplemental instruction for more difficult courses, and a speech lab with a computer bunker, camera and flat-screen TV for student recording and review of presentations.
All of these services are provided free of charge to students.
“Students often ask us how much our services cost, and they are surprised that it’s free,” said Szakonyi. “We are committed to fostering student success, and we do everything we can
to make that happen. We want students to feel comfortable here so they ask for the help they need.”
Szakonyi said the primary benefit to students, faculty and the community are clear.
“When we talk about student success and retention, the Learning Commons is clearly doing its job and serving a record number of students,” she said.
The Learning Commons is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays, 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays and 1 to 4 p.m. on Sundays, with special hours during College breaks.