1. Provide Students With The Tools To Succeed
Student success. It is, ultimately, what schools are about. President Broderick established a committee earlier this year to consider the university’s approach for ensuring student success, and to make recommendations on how it can best provide an environment that promotes this ideal. Based on those recommendations, ODU is moving forward on a number of fronts, all geared toward creating a new model for student success.
A significant step in creating this model involves a change in organization. At his State of the University address in August, Broderick announced his plan to establish the new position of vice president for student engagement and enrollment services. ODU opened a national search for the position this fall. A Student Success and Enrollment Management Advisory Board also will be established, to be chaired by Provost Carol Simpson.
In a letter to the faculty at the start of the academic year, Simpson addressed two other priorities for the university, involving “the importance of high quality, ‘high touch’ advising to the success of our students and the role of technology in teaching.” She encouraged faculty members to take advantage of ODU’s Center for Learning Technologies, which is a resource for professors who want to enhance their teaching techniques or incorporate new technologies to support classroom instruction.
“As faculty, we have to be nimble and ready to adapt to the needs of the students we are now teaching,” Simpson said. “They will rapidly disengage if they feel they have to go back five, 10, 30 years in ‘tech time’ to sit passively through a lecture, especially if the lecture provides them with facts they have already downloaded before the end of class. …
“Our students are awash in information; what they need from ODU in today’s world is our help in showing them how to analyze, prioritize, and place that information in a real world context.”
ODU is also providing new physical facilities aimed at student success, in the form of a Learning Commons and Student Success Center, both under construction at the front and back, respectively, of Perry Library.
“Good advising and mentoring, along with enhanced support services in the areas of writing, math and sciences, will go a long way toward ensuring student success,” Simpson said. “Many of these support services will be housed in the new Student Success Center.”
University College, which will be a major “tenant” at the facility, is, administratively, the central source for undergraduate students, especially first-year and transfer students, providing all of the services they need to ensure their progress from the moment they enter ODU through graduation and beyond. At present, these student services are housed in various locations on campus.
The Learning Commons will be a natural fit for the library. Designed to help students excel on course assignments, it will bring together library resources, technology and expertise in a flexible, inviting space for individual and collaborative study.
“We want our students to have advantages equal to those of any students anywhere. That’s why we have committed to the kind of technology and innovative learning-centered environments that will prepare them for a competitive world,” Broderick said.
A relatively new concept in U.S. higher education, the learning commons model has proven successful at schools such as North Carolina State and the University of Massachusetts. ODU’s Learning Commons will feature workspaces that encourage collaboration as well as support traditional study methods. Collaborative research appears to be the trend these days, based on studies that have shown students can learn material better when working on projects together.
The Learning Commons also will provide easy access to expertise and resources to help students with assignments, while encouraging experimentation and creativity by providing advanced technologies and services. In addition to the “flexible” furniture that will occupy the new area, allowing students to build their own collaborative study space, the commons will feature a multimedia room and sound room where they can, for example, record voice-overs for PowerPoint presentations.
Offering wired and wireless connectivity, the Learning Commons will feature a variety of advanced technologies, including GIS with Google Earth available on computers with dual monitors, Apple computers and scanners, and an equipment loan pool with iPods, cameras and camcorders. The commons, which will be open 24/5, will also have a quiet study area and a café.