Monday, October 29, 2007

Article Note: On learning commons evolution

Citation for the article:

Roberts, Regina Lee. "The Evolving Landscape of the Learning Commons." Library Review 56.9 (2007): 803-810.

Read via Emerald.

This article looks at the evolution of the learning commons concept and its relation to libraries. The library's learning commons is a response to the users' changing needs. As pedagogy becomes more student-centered, spaces that nurture collaborative learning become important. This is what a learning commons does. The author writes that "academic institutions are supporting a learning commons model because the faculty and administration recognize that students learn in dynamic ways" (803).

The author goes on to suggest that the library is a natural place for this type of environment. This is because the library is more than just a collection of books and electronic resources. The library is a center of knowledge, a place where members of the academic community can come together. The learning commons can also add to the value that users find in their libraries. Roberts adds that "in this context, by providing the space and tools of a learning commons the library provides yet another excellent service to its users" (804).

The author does emphasize there is a difference between an information commons and a learning commons. In brief, an information commons is the laboratory structure that helps with seeking information. Think of the big computer lab with a variety of other features. The learning commons is the space where knowledge is created with the information tools available. Learners share a common learning interest, and they collaborate in their own learning process. The learning that occurs in the learning commons does not have to be class-related, i.e. formal. Basically, as I understand it, the learning commons can have the features of the information commons, the technology, but it also has the strong social and learning components. One is made for seeking information. The other is used to create it as well.

Other ideas:

  • This can get complicated: "Offering more services can become a complicated mandate because libraries will also want to maintain a commitment to the traditional library role of collecting, organizing, storing, and disseminating information" (806). It is a balancing act. Many administrators often think that once you set up an information commons, you can get rid of the books and other more "traditional" resources. They fail to realize that often knowledge is found and created by using the more "traditional" resources as well as the electronic ones. Plus, as the Roberts suggests, the learning commons has the potential then to increase the value of collection development (806). This will come into place as students find the need to seek out a variety of sources to meet their learning needs.
  • You need assessment, and you need to document benefits and value:
    • "Lakos and Phipps (2004) are strong proponents of assessments as a means of encouraging stakeholder support. Sustainable programs require measurable outcomes" (806). The Lakos and Phipps piece is from Portal 4.3, pgs. 345-361.
    • "Therefore, a library that includes a learning commons should also include a systematic plan to measure the outcomes and methods of the activities of the learning commons" (807).
  • The role of a librarian will change with a learning commons. There will be a need to be flexible and to engage in continual learning. These librarians need to keep up, and they have to be willing to experiment. "It also requires that the librarian participate in the learning process not just for information literacy but as a collaborative partner and possibly a project facilitator" (807).
After the part about librarians' roles, the author does go on into what seems a digression on digital projects and their preservation. While this could be an important activity of an information commons, the item in the article seems to take away from the rest of article, giving more the impression that the learning commons is to become some sort of digital repository. What happened to the rest of the mission? At any rate, the article does provide some food for thought.


Frank said...

As the content editor of LSCHE, a web portal for learning support centers in higher education, I am interested in knowing about the origin of the term, "learning commons." I was told, without being given a reference, that it originated in Canada. Collegially......Frank L Christ

Frank Christ said...

Angel, Thank You. The reference and article is just what I needed to add to LSCHE.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Hello there. Sorry I did not reply the first time. Glad you found the article useful. I will make a note to check out the site.

Best, and keep on blogging.