An important consideration for academic time-on-task is the “where” of the learning. The Learning Commons offers students several space options all in one place, and all designed with collaborative learning in mind. Whether reserving a space ahead of time or arriving with a group of classmates, students can find a place to work actively together with moveable furniture, whiteboards, and projection screens.
Computing resources are an important part of the Learning Commons, as students need access to the technology tools for completing their learning tasks. In addition to computers, work stations, and printers, Learning Commons staff can provide assistance with how to navigate USM’s most commonly-used technologies.
On the Gorham campus, the Learning Commons is located on the first floor of the Bailey Hall Library. On the Portland campus, the Learning Commons location is the second floor of the Glickman Library.
Group Study Rooms
There are several group study rooms throughout USM Libraries, and the majority reside in the Learning Commons. The rooms accommodate between 6-8 students, with whiteboards and markers provided as well as projection screens for ease of collaboration when the content is on a laptop or other device. The enclosed space also allows a group of students to virtually include others in their collaborative work via Zoom or other digital platforms.
The rooms can be accessed on a walk-in basis, although students are encouraged to reserve a room ahead of time since demand can be high. Reservations are made online for up to a three hour time period, and up to three weeks in advance.
Study pods provide space for two students to work side by side. Each of the three seating areas within a pod offers a personal LED light, a power outlet, and side screens for visual separation from the other seating areas.
A whiteboard can be a very effective tool for explaining concepts to others, practicing equations, drawing mind maps, or creating other visual aids for self-testing and sharing ideas. There are whiteboards throughout the Learning Commons, including specific whiteboards “zones”. These zones center around extra large whiteboards, both wall mounted and on wheels, ideal for having more than one student participate simultaneously in the active learning process. Students frequently take pictures of what they produced on the whiteboard to use as a self-designed, spaced-practice study guide.
In addition to the group study rooms, study pods, and whiteboard zones, the Learning Commons is filled with moveable tables and chairs, rolling whiteboards, and comfortable seating options. The Learning Commons was designed with flexibility in mind, and students are encouraged to “make the space their own” based on the size of the group or the nature of the task.
The service desk at The Learning Commons offers another collaborative learning option, where students can connect with assistance on starting the research process, locating library texts and articles, navigating the computing resources, securing a group study room, and meeting with one of our many peer academic support staff. This support is offered on a walk-in basis, by appointment, and online. Students can call for live assistance during business hours.
There are over two dozen computer stations at each of the Learning Commons locations, with both Mac and PC desktop computers available. Since the Learning Commons is designed as a collaborative learning environment, students can sit side by side to work together at the computer. All of the computers are networked to the local printers, copiers, and scanners, and are updated with all of the approved software programs for university use. If looking for a space that offers quiet computer use, students can be directed to other library spaces or nearby computer labs.
Many students bring their own laptop to the Learning Commons for use in their collaborative learning efforts. There are several tables and other surfaces in proximity to power outlets, serving as laptop stations for this work.
Many students find it helpful to the learning task to share content with others from a laptop or other device. To assist with this collaboration, there are projection screens in the group study rooms with cables supporting most devices. The enclosed space of the study room also allows a group of students to virtually include others in their collaborative work via Zoom or other digital platforms.
Printing, Copying, and Scanning
The Learning Commons is one of the campus locations with both color and black and white printers and copiers. There are also scanners for ease of making an electronic copy of a larger document or item. All of the printers, copiers, and scanners are networked to the desktop computers in the Learning Commons. Students can also access these options wirelessly via their own laptop or other device. Printing of documents is charged at a per-page price to the student’s USM Card.
The Learning Commons staff can offer guidance for using the available computing resources. The Portland location of the Learning Commons is located one floor below the USM Help Desk, with trained IT staff who can assist students with issues related to internet connectivity, access to MaineStreet or Brightspace, or downloading software. Students may also schedule an appointment with a peer Technology Coach for 1:1 help with learning the most common softwares used across the coursework at USM such as the Google Suite, Office 365, Hypothesis, MindMup, and WordPress.