SIC opens new 'Learning Commons,' which combines library and student lounge, resource space

SIC opens new 'Learning Commons,' which combines library and student lounge, resource space

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Learning Commons ribboncutting

Saline County Chamber of Commerce members gather for a photo on Jan. 22 after the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new SIC Learning Commons on the college's Harrisburg campus.

HARRISBURG — Southeastern Illinois College's new Learning Commons, which combines the college's library with a student lounge space, held its grand opening celebration Wednesday.

The renovation project began in the summer of 2018 as a project to not only complete deferred maintenance, but also to modernize and reinvent the library to make it a learning hub for students, according to a news release from SIC. The remodeling meant new ceilings, flooring, lights, electrical additions, tearing down of walls, additional technology advancements and more to modernize the building and its student resources.

The renovation, initially funded by a combination of state appropriations funding and bond funds to match state dollars, joined the Dana Keating Student Success Center, Melba Patton Learning Resource Center, and Online Learning & Educational Technology Departments.

The new space also provides students with a modern area to use for reading and relaxing with a faux fireplace and other lounging areas, use of various electronic devices in places like the cyberbar, homework in group meeting spaces or in solo study pods, larger collaborative workspaces with floor-to-ceiling whiteboards and screen-sharing monitors, games and puzzles that include a Lego station, virtual reality experiences, 3D printing opportunities and more, according to the release.

“We were listening to our students, we asked them what they needed, and it was a space that would be more than a library, more than a help center, and more than just a cool place to study,” SIC President Jonah Rice said during the grand opening event on Wednesday.

Rice defined the Learning Commons as "a library, an archive, a classroom, technical support, tutoring and academic support, a content creation station, a quiet space, a gaming space, an online space and a cyberspace all rolled into one.

"It’s a trend that you see in higher education, and ultimately a Learning Commons metaphorically and figuratively is a hub," he said in the release.

Karla Lewis, Associate Dean of the Learning Commons spoke next, gave more detail about the various areas within the space.

“We’ve moved tutoring from an isolated area to a more visible location at the front of the Learning Commons and have added some professional tutors in math and English ... and that has increased our tutoring assistance by more than 500%,” Lewis said. “We tried to provide a space where no matter the need, whether a student is coming in to work alone, work as a small group, wanting to socialize, work with a big team on a presentation, relax, or whatever they need to do, they can come here.”

Lewis said that even though there are now fewer physical books in the Melba Patton Library portion of the Learning Commons, there is now greater access to books in various formats. She said there are more than 12 million books, movies and other sources available.

To learn more about the SIC Learning Commons or to become a sponsor, contact Lewis at 618-252-5400, ext. 2326 or email karla.lewis@sic.edu.

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