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Faculty Commons to open this month

Sept. 13, 2007
By Mary Reed

Being a faculty member in the Information Age can  create a bit of a digital divide when they're outside the classroom, with so much work taking place online. The new Faculty Commons, located on the third floor of Alden Library and slated to open Sept. 24, is designed to take Ohio University from the Information Age to the Interaction Age.

"I call it the Baker Center effect," says Jan Maxwell, interim dean of Ohio University Libraries. "Every time I go in (Baker Center) I end up having conversations with somebody I wouldn't have otherwise had a conversation with. The library is sort of a natural place for that to happen. It's a place faculty go to naturally. It represents all the academic endeavors on campus."

The approximately 8,500-square-foot space will provide a comfortable physical place for faculty to gather, complete with soft chairs and a coffee kiosk. It also will host services that help faculty advance their teaching and research goals, such as conference rooms, a research poster printing service, multi-media workstations and expert assistance on the use of technology to support teaching, learning, research and creative activity. The adjacent Friends of the Library Room also is newly renovated.

Faculty Commons also will be home to a "technology sandbox" -- a place where faculty can play with new and emerging technologies and talk with others about possible uses. Many of these new technologies -- such as Web 2.0, iChat and walk-up collaboration systems such as TeamSpot -- are designed to help faculty and graduate students interact and collaborate with each other rather than work in isolation.

Funding comes from the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, University Libraries, Center for Academic Technologies, Center for Teaching and Learning, Instructional Media Services and the university's renovation budget.

"These are exciting times for faculty at Ohio University," says Marjorie DeWert, director of academic technologies. "We are transitioning from the Information Age -- with its focus on delivering and accessing digital content -- to the Interaction Age, a time in which information is seen as something with which, and around which, people can interact."

In addition to providing a home for the Center for Academic Technology (formerly the Center for Innovations in Teaching and Learning), Faculty Commons also will house the Center for Teaching and Learning (formerly the Center for Teaching Excellence) and the Center for Writing Excellence. It also will be home to Media Production, which provides graphic art and multi-media creation services to faculty. 

"To have somebody next door and just to pop by and say, 'This is what this faculty member is working on and what do you think,' is really invigorating the teaching and learning environment," says Laurie Hatch, the new director of the Center for Teaching and Learning. "This shows a wonderful commitment on behalf of the university to faculty development." 

Hatch says her center will provide programming for incoming graduate teaching assistants and new, mid-career and senior faculty. She also hopes the center can encourage more mentoring networks.

"I really like how (Faculty Commons) is a concerted effort to build collaborative relationships," Hatch adds. "I think that's hugely appealing. Oftentimes teaching is a somewhat isolated activity. It doesn't need to be."

Faculty Commons will host open house receptions for faculty, teaching associates and instructional staff members from 3 to 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, and Wednesday, Oct. 3. An open house will be held for students from 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2. Refreshments will be served.

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