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Activate active learning in the Health Sciences Library Commons

By July 29, 2022September 16th, 2023No Comments

By Lisa McGuire

When the design process started for the new Health Sciences Education Center (HSEC), staff in the Health Sciences Library (HSL) knew they wanted to have a space that could function as an interprofessional ‘sandbox’ for exploring new ways of teaching and learning between faculty, librarians, instructional designers, and academic technologists. Flash forward to today and that space is called The Commons. Let’s learn more about how faculty and staff in the health sciences are using The Commons in partnership with HSL to enhance teaching and learning through active learning.

Dental students from Heidelberg, Germany

In March 2022, 17 dental students from the University of Heidelberg in Germany visited the School of Dentistry (SOD) as part of a virtual exchange and observership program. Dr. Karin Quick in SOD reached out to Nicole Theis-Mahon, HSL’s dental librarian, to collaborate on building a rewarding learning experience for the students that included activities across the library’s technology-enhanced spaces. 

Nicole reflects on the goals of the program and how the space helped achieve those goals. “The Commons was the perfect space to host the dental students from Heidelberg during their on-site visit. We were able to utilize the technology so the group could connect and engage with groups within and outside the University.”

Nursing faculty development session with a ‘microlecture’ format

In May 2022, nursing liaison librarian Liz Weinfurter collaborated with Nima Salehi, School of Nursing Instructional Design and Assessment Specialist, to schedule The Commons for a faculty development event called Microlectures and Active Learning.

Microlectures are short presentations (five minutes or less) that focus on a single learning outcome and incorporate pauses for active learning. Twelve nursing faculty members participated in the session and were able to practice this active learning technique in the same environment they encounter in the large active learning classrooms in HSEC.

“We’ve used the HSL Commons for Nursing faculty professional development events,” says Salehi. “It’s the perfect space to share active learning strategies using all the technologies you find in HSEC classrooms.” 

One asset of this space is it is dedicated to learning about and practicing active learning. As Salehi notes, “Reserving the room was easy because you aren’t competing with academic classroom events.” Adding, “This is an amazing resource.”

Connector and common good

Liz Weinfurter, Teaching and Learning Coordinator for the Health Sciences Library, says that “while the specifics are continually evolving, our vision for this space is the same as when we first conceived of the idea during the planning process for our new building.” She adds, “The library is a place where different people and groups who might not normally have contact can come together and connect.” 

Weinfurter describes the space as a common good that instructors can use to refine their teaching skills. She sees it as a highly practical environment that serves as a catalyst where people can learn from each other. “When you can get people together to share expertise and ideas, the possibilities are endless” she says.

An invitation!

The suite of spaces included in The Commons include an active learning classroom, a 1:Button Studio video recording studio, and a conference/Zoom room. 

Partner with the Libraries for your faculty development session or small-group consulting sessions, consult with library experts for course-integrated instruction, identify resources for classes, and more

The Commons calendar is now open for August bookings, contact to learn more about using The Commons.

The Commons

Active Learning Classroom

  • Seats: 24 total. 4 active learning pods with 6 seats at each.
  • Set-up includes an instructor podium, computer and Crestron panel that lets instructor change display screens to one of four pods

1:Button Studio

  • Seats: 1-2
  • High-quality video production at the touch of a button

Conference room

  • Seats: 16
  • Room can be a Zoom room and has access to a kitchenette for catering
Lisa McGuire

Author Lisa McGuire

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