Learning Commons Aids Student Success

TAMPA, Fla. (Sept. 30, 2009) – Students interested in tutoring services need look no further than the USF Library. The USF Tampa Library’s Learning Commons provides extensive tutoring services free of charge for all USF Tampa students with a valid USF ID card.


The Learning Commons is not a program, but rather a process that places the learner as the central focus and utilizes the Tampa Library as the hub for learning. Its purpose is to facilitate student learning, through direct on-site services as well as through appropriately informed referrals to other potential resources. 


The Learning Commons first opened in fall 2008, with the consolidation of five formerly separate learning support programs: The Writing Center, Math Tutoring, Math Lab, Student Learning Services, and the Project Thrust Tutorial Center. Since then, three additional centers have joined: The Chemistry Center, Math Center, and STEM Mart (supporting integrated tutoring for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).


The process begins with the "Ask" desk, centrally located in the library’s main lobby, where a knowledgeable staff member is available to help students and faculty find the right service quickly. Moving through the Learning Commons, at the "Reference & Research" desk, librarians offer assistance in finding the right information resources for assignments, and, for future research, offer instruction in how to find books, articles, etc. the next time.


Just beyond "Reference & Research" desk is the "Group Work" area, offering stations and dual monitor computers conveniently arranged for small group work. Adjacent to the group work area is the "Writing Center," a staffed by graduate-level English students available to assist in the organization, development, grammar, and style of all types of writing assignments and all stages of the writing process. 


Another convenient service in the Learning Commons is the "Information Technology Help Desk," offering computing assistance and training. 


Located just one floor up, "Tutoring and Learning Services" (TLS) offers several different options for course-specific tutoring in a variety of subjects. Formed from the consolidation of several small tutoring centers, TLS is a comprehensive learning support service  offering individual and small group tutoring in the maths, sciences, languages, and many other subjects, in addition to study skills workshops and credited courses for students interested in further developing their learning, reading, and writing skills. Students can schedule ongoing appointments with trained peer-tutors, or utilize one of three “drop-in” support centers, including:


STEM Mart: supporting Calculus-based science, technology, engineering, and math courses.


Chemistry Center: supporting Chemistry I, II, and Chemistry for Today.


Math Center: supporting Finite Math and College Algebra.


Based on data at the close of the first academic year in operation, the Learning Commons has resulted in:


An increase in fall to spring retention for first-year students;


More than 3,000 students utilizing the combined services of the tutoring and writing centers;


Expansion of availability of learning support services including  evenings, all three summer semesters, and now weekend hours;


Approximately 500 writing center appointments each semester.


For more information about the Learning Commons, please email Patricia Maher, director of Tutoring & Learning Services, or Nancy Cunningham, director of Academic Services at the USF Tampa Library.


Story written by Eileen Thornton, assistant director of communications, USF Libraries