Overview of the Program:

As universities evolve to meet the needs of an ever-changing society, so too does the role of the University Learning Commons (ULC). Virtually all academic libraries are being called to broaden their missions in the face of technological, pedagogical and market developments. The ULC primarily supports student learning; however, it must also provide for faculty, staff and the broader community. It is essential that this support be innovative, sustainable and technologically appropriate, while at the same time be able to provide a basis for the multiple partnerships necessary for effective learning and research. The 7th Canadian Learning Commons Conference will offer a forum for presentations and discussions on a range of themes related to the Learning Commons of the future. The conference will:

  • Consider what the ULC of the future will look like, how it might differ from the ULC of today, and examine the factors that contribute to its evolution.
  • Explore the ever-changing nature of the ULC environment and its teaching and learning missions. Topics include: design and spatial requirements, governance considerations, and pedagogical strategies.
  • Discover new constituencies and partnerships the ULC may be called upon to support; and subsequently, how the ULC will meet these new needs and requirements. (Example: Faculty and their needs as teachers, learners and researchers).
  • Reflect on how change requires the ULC to create new strategies and approaches while maintaining its current relationships with partners and stakeholders.
  • Examine how infrastructure can position the ULC to adapt and integrate the challenges and opportunities of emerging technologies.
  • Consider the techniques and methods currently available for the ULC to benchmark outcomes and provide accountability.

Audience:

The Learning Commons conference is meant to appeal to all parties with a stake in the ULC regardless of whether their institutions intend to launch, are in the development stages, or already have a well-established Commons. It is intended for librarians and library personnel, architects, faculty, technology specialists, student tutoring supervisors and mentors, and all those with an interest in teaching and learning in a university environment.

Streams/Issues:

The Future Commons – Universities face numerous financial, pedagogical, demographic, government and societal pressures requiring them to rethink ways to fulfill their educational and research mandates. In what ways are these university changes affecting the ULC? Will the ULC of tomorrow be different from that of today? Is the current model sufficiently adaptable and flexible to meet inevitable challenges? How can the ULC predict, prepare and adjust for these changes while continuing to be sustainable?

Governance – At the heart of the ULC is a myriad of partnerships whose key focus is successful learning. How does the ULC effectively build, nurture, advance and sustain these partnerships today and in the future? What strategies and methods are currently in place to maintain these relationships? How will future challenges affect the evolution of the current models and strategies? What will the next ULC governance look like in order to sustain its ongoing success?

Space and Design – The ability to use space effectively and creatively is a hallmark of the ULC. What lessons can be learned from well-established Commons? What are the strengths and weaknesses in the current approaches to ULC design? What planning and design adjustments could be considered? How are the pedagogical requirements for ULC space evolving? Are there unexpected differences and needs amongst ULC users that current designs do not adequately address? Are the needs of all stakeholders being met? What will the successful ULC of the future entail in order to support pedagogy and learning in terms of space and design?

Teaching and Learning – The central feature of the ULC is the intense focus on learning and learners’ needs. What strengths and weaknesses have emerged in the ULC approach to these needs? What challenges have students, tutors, learning resource services and faculty experienced within the ULC context? What emerging demands and needs must the ULC meet in this regard? How must the ULC be conceptualized in the future to strengthen and enhance its support for learning and sustainability?

Faculty and the Learning Commons – ULCs have traditionally focused their energy towards student learning and success. What role does faculty play in current ULC models? What role should they play? What services and support could be provided for faculty research, teaching and learning? How can these changes be implemented and realized?

Technology in the Commons – The ULC relies on information technology to enhance and facilitate the support it provides to learners. What technology and information management infrastructures have served ULCs well? What technologies could be improved or introduced? What issues regarding the implementation and integration of information technology remain a challenge and how might they be addressed? How can the ULC be prepared for new technologies?

Outcomes and Accountability – ULCs must continually demonstrate their merit and value. What are the expectations for accountability and outcomes, particularly in terms of learner success? How will the ULC meet evolving and new expectations? What effective strategies, techniques and methods are currently being used to document ULC outcomes? What challenges are involved with the implementation and sustainability of these methods? What new strategies might be considered to improve accountability?