AskOnline Recognizes University for its Exceptional Collaborative Environment for Academic Support
May 1, 2013, Braintree, MA. Internet software provider AskOnline has awarded its first Innovator Award to the University of Southern Maine’s Learning Commons. This award is presented to institutions that are expanding the boundaries of AskOnline’s technology through creative applications of its software platform to enhance student engagement and academic success.
The USM’s Learning Commons is cited for its ambitious design and concept; both in the physical spaces that invite unique student collaboration and the expanded use of on-line technologies, platforms and communications that provide academic support for students.
In making the announcement Jessie Bourneuf, President of the Massachusetts headquartered AskOnline commented, “We’ve watched USM continually stretch our products as the full impact of the Learning Commons has gained traction on campus. USM is an outstanding example of how the re-purposing of physical space, combined with the unique partnering with the Library and other departments in the university, can make collaborative learning accessible in new and exciting ways. We’re proud that our technology has been an integral part of it,” she continued.
The AskOnline platform is an internet solution for scheduling and managing academic support and advising programs. It extends face-to-face and multi-site tutoring programs on-line through synchronous and asynchronous interactions and a variety of communication tools like whiteboards and chat rooms.
The Learning Commons was developed through a partnership between USM Libraries and the Division of Student Success. The Learning Commons itself was designed as an active, collaborative physical space where students can work with reference librarians, tutors, faculty and each other in a dynamic environment.
The operational structure of The Learning Commons is also unique because it’s managed not by one person, but by a multidisciplinary team of professionals that include Dexter, Edward Moore, Circulation Associate at University Libraries in Gorham, David Nutty, Director of Libraries at USM, Bill Grubb, Head of Reference and Information Literacy, and Casandra Fitzherbert, Head of Access Services. The project has oversight from Elizabeth Higgins, Executive Director of Student Success.
Today, each of the two Learning Commons (Portland and Gorham campuses) is comprised of a variety of flexible spaces, including new group study rooms, a seminar room that doubles as a testing room for twelve, carousel and café style work stations for MAC’s and PC’s with access to the Internet, video on demand, wireless printing and other resources. There is even a small recording studio for creating audio and video projects. Groupings of deep and comfortable chairs and movable tables are set up for collaborative and individual study.
AskOnline.net, the software platform USM adopted and customized for scheduling, communications and management of its multi-site face-to-face and online tutoring, is an integral part of The Learning Commons. Through web connectivity students can submit questions by email, talk via chat, schedule an in-person tutoring or research assistance session, or schedule an online tutoring appointment on subjects including writing, math, biology, accounting and finance, and technology. They also can find and book appointments using Smartphones, iPads or laptops from anywhere.
The Learning Commons team are now preparing themselves for what’s next. On that list are partnership with additional academic departments, promotion of virtual collaborative opportunities such as group study via Google Hang-out, and new workshops on research, writing, and technology-based academic time on task.