Castlegar Library Welcomes New Energy
The new location of the Learning Success Centre (LSC) at the Castlegar Campus has provided a new lease on learning for many Selkirk College students.
Just before the beginning of the September semester, the centre moved from Lower Bonnington to the brighter and more visible location in the Castlegar Campus Library. The change has been immediate and positive.
Castlegar’s Learning Skills Coordinator Todd Solarik says the new location in the campus library has made the services provided to students much more visible.
“What is most exciting is that having us up here has further promoted the programs we offer,” says Todd Solarik, Learning Skills Coordinator for the Castlegar Campus. “I’m here to provide learning skills, but younger students coming from high school are sometimes reluctant to ask for help. Up here, I’m just part of library services and am now conveniently located beside the Writing Centre, math tutor area, and study rooms available to students, making the LSC more approachable.”
The Learning Success Centre is part of Selkirk College’s Student Access & Support Services. Learning Skills Coordinators are located on the Castlegar, Tenth Street and Silver King campuses. They provide support to students in three major areas: one-on-one tutoring, workshops and the peer tutor programs. The services are offered free of charge to all students. Peer tutors are paid through the Selkirk’s Work Study Program.
The Learning Commons Approach
Solarik and Selkirk College Librarian Gregg Currie attended the Canadian Learning Commons Conference at the University of Calgary in 2012. They were excited and inspired by what they saw. Post-secondary libraries have been evolving into learning commons of over the last decade, which means incorporating student support services in library design. The pair returned to Castlegar with a new commitment to integrating the Learning Success Centre into one of the busiest locations on campus.
“In the old location mature students would find me, but for the 17 or 18 year old students it seemed much more difficult for them to reach out to the services we provide,” says Solarik. “Once those younger students are here, they are fine and they realize it’s not a big deal. It’s getting them to ask for help that first time.”
The change in location has shown immediate results. One-on-one learning skills services—which include tools such as time and stress management, organizational skills, reading comprehension, memory techniques and test taking strategies—were up 15% in those first four months. Peer tutoring numbers have skyrocketed with 50% more traffic and a total of 32 tutors signing up to help their student peers.
“Being successful in college is knowing how to access the resources,” says Solarik. “It’s a hard thing to walk through the door, but once you do there are all kinds of services.”
The new location is a fit that suits that everyone.
“The library staff has been very welcoming and supportive of the LSC move,” says Solarik. “I appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with them using a learning commons approach to reach our students.”
Addressing Issues Early is Key
Getting help is essential for some students and they often need a push from their instructors. Selkirk College also has the Early Alert Program which is an online referral system created to help connect students who may be facing challenges in their courses or programs with appropriate services—learning skills, counselling, financial aid and Aboriginal services. Often academic difficulties are linked to other issues in a student’s life and can result in poor attendance, low exam results or stress and anxiety. The earlier these issues are addressed, the greater the student’s chances of success.
“I understand the reluctance,” says Solarik. “It does take courage to ask for help, but there is lots of research out there with Early Alert that if a student accesses resources you will see marks going up. The sooner the better, because after mid-terms it’s harder to turn it around. Making that first connection is the most difficult, but it’s worth it.”
The Learning Skills Coordinator on the Silver King Campus is Laurie Jarvis and the Learning Skills Coordinators at Tenth Street are Martin Keyserlingk and Randall Cannon.