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MC's Teaching & Learning Center having a positive effect

01/15/2013
With a new semester under way, Monmouth College is encouraging students to take advantage of its Teaching & Learning Center (TLC), which has unveiled several new initiatives to help them improve their academic skills. 
 
“The TLC is always working to provide resources for students to help aid in academic success,” said Mishelle Oaks, director of academic support programs. “I am working to get into more classrooms, especially with first-year students, to spread information on our services and programs and to raise awareness.”
 
A key initiative during the fall semester was hiring three students to assist freshmen in the college’s Introduction to Liberal Arts (ILA) courses with their common reading book, “Botany of Desire.” The sophomores, who had completed ILA last year, also shared general reading strategies to assist with other books and courses. Each week, they were available to offer study sessions for students to discuss the common reading.”
 
“The program was designed to help students, in a peer situation, better understand their reading and how to critically read college texts,” said Oaks.
 
In collaboration with the athletic department, another pilot program provided a centralized athletic study location for three hours, three nights a week.
 
“This gives athletes an opportunity to come and study,” said Oaks. “We hope this structure and support will assist student-athletes in developing improved study strategies and enhanced learning in their courses.”
 
In collaboration with the Office of Student Success, new “One-Minute Clinic” sessions were provided.
 
“The premise is that all students have one minute to spare on their way to and from lunch,” said Oaks. “During various weeks throughout the semester, a table was staffed in the Stockdale Center during the lunch hour. Topics such as homesickness, tutoring, time management, involvement, and advising were addressed.”
 
Another pilot program, called “Making the Dean’s List,” featured six dedicated students who met every other week to discuss strategies to enhance their current academic habits and take them to the next level.
 
“They were very excited to begin work on self-exploration of their own academic journey,” said Oaks, who reported that of the six students, three made the Dean’s List.
 
“The TLC is always looking for ways to market tutoring further and make sure students understand the service is offered in two ways,” explained Oaks. “What we call ‘drop-in tutoring’ consists of weekly hours set up for students to visit a tutor on site.”
 
That tutoring visit can be for five minutes with a quick question, or an hour with some longer work needing to be done between student and tutor.
 
Added Oaks, “If drop-in visit hours do not work in a student’s schedule or the student wants additional help, students can set up an appointment by coming to the TLC office on the second floor of Poling Hall or by e-mailing us tlc@monmouthcollege.edu.”
 
During the fall semester, 159 students took advantage of TLC tutoring, combining for 617 total visits, up from 489 the previous fall. The largest areas for tutoring were accounting, mathematics/statistics and psychology.
 
During the 2011-12 academic year, there were 961 visits to “supplemental instruction” (SI) sessions, which are peer-led study sessions from a student instructor who is sitting through the class again. Oaks reported that the SI sessions increased as the year went on and students saw how valuable of a tool it could be. She noted that students who take advantage of SI sessions on a consistent basis tend to have higher grades in the connected course. 
 
“By sitting through the class again, the SI leader is aware of what questions arise and what was covered in class that day,” said Oaks. “This helps translate to what to work on in SI sessions to assist the students.”
 
SI sessions are different from tutoring in that they help students learn how to learn the content of the course and work together in groups to effectively pass the class.
 
“I think that SI is an asset because it gives the students a different perspective from the professors, and it gives them a person they may be more comfortable coming to talk to about problems with their classes,” said senior Alexis Fulkerson of Macomb, a former SI leader.
 
The TLC also offers academic coaching from a peer student who can assist weekly with time management, organization, note taking, general academic plans and directing students to resources. Students who engage in academic coaching find it to be a helpful tool to assist with accountability and motivation while learning successful academic practices.
 
“The program started small, with just five students, but it has grown immensely,” said Oaks. “Last year, there were more than 200 visits to academic coaches.”
 
“Serving as an academic coach for a couple students on campus has not only helped my students get better at their academics and management, but it has also helped me apply those same exact skills so I can be a better student, too,” said senior Veronica Woodruff of Elgin.
 
Within academic coaching, there were 14 students on academic probation last fall. Ten of those students are now off probation, thanks in large part to the program. Oaks also reported that 10 students on probation attended a “Jump Start Your Semester” workshop as an intervention to learn some new academic habits and techniques to assist their semester. Five of those students are now off probation.
 
“All of our resources are offered free to our students,” concluded Oaks. “The TLC wants students to know they are here to help and that getting help is a natural part of college success. The services we offer provide all students with the opportunity to improve their learning skills and, ultimately, their academic success. The number of students served in various ways shows great improvement in the culture of Monmouth College as an arena where it is okay to seek out help.”
 
Oaks can be reached at mbanas@monmouthcollege.edu or 309-457-2214.