Emily Hawkins –
The new Digital Learning Center (DLC), located on the first floor of Schewe Library, cost Illinois College almost $67,000, making some members of the IC community question its value.
Is this really a waste of money? Students who never go to the library would certainly argue that it absolutely is. However, there are many students and faculty members who have utilized this new facility.
According to Andy Turner of the Information Technology Department, this learning center was created for the students to have somewhere to go to work on group projects on the monitors or write on the L-shaped “bistro” when working out a math problem. Turner says “We designed this with students in mind and if they need help, don’t hesitate to ask […] The students teach me as much as I teach them. This is for us to help each other.” While Turner admits laptops can do what these monitors can do, the monitors in the DLC have the advantage for students to log in as a group, enabling everybody to edit their work at the same time and together, eliminating the frustration of using separate laptops and small screens. Turner helped with the design of the DLC and helped install the monitors.
The brains behind the DLC include Turner and the Director of Schewe Library, Jan Figa. Figa and his team received a $100,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation for the DLC to promote the three P’s of workspace collaboration: proximity, permission, and privacy. These P’s allow for students to work together in not only a technologically-driven way, but a purpose-driven way in an environment with a specially hired librarian, Luke Beatty. Beatty helps many students learn how to use the Center, the Center being especially useful for the new Cutting Edge organization, a group dedicated to helping others utilize technology for their presentations.
With technology taking over the 21st century, the DLC will be beneficial for professors to hold class sessions when technology is needed, and for students to have a collaborative workspace. There are no plans to install future Centers, but after all, a workspace such as the DLC has a home in the proper learning environment of Schewe. Figa emphasized the motto of Schewe, “your partner in knowledge creation,” stating that faculty can use the tools “to bridge the gap between students’ everyday use of technology and their use of technology for the purposes of research and learning.”
So far, Beatty and Turner have seen tons of students use the center, but the full impact of the DLC cannot be assessed until the DLC is complete with the addition of two more monitors.
While some would argue the DLC was a waste of time and money, many students have benefitted from the addition to Schewe. Beatty, Figa, and Turner are always available for technology help, and want students to get as much use out of the DLC as possible.
Emily Hawkins, from Belvidere, Illinois, is a senior majoring in English with a Creative Writing Concentration with a Psychology minor. Emily is a Features Co-editor and writer for The Rambler, and plays softball.