By Colleen MacPherson
Identified in the Integrated Plan and expected to feature prominently in the yet-to-be-released Teaching and Learning Foundational Document, the new University Learning Centre (ULC) received official approval Sept. 21 to proceed with the work of supporting and enhancing teaching and learning at the University of Saskatchewan.
At its first meeting of the year, University Council approved the ULC, its vision, its preliminary budget and its governance structure. In presenting the motion, John Rigby, chair of the Planning Committee, reminded Council the motion is a follow-up to its April endorsement of the terms of reference of what was then called the New Learning Centre.
The new entity is one of several structures to emerge as a result of the Outreach and Engagement Foundational Document and the disestablishment of the Extension Division, which is expected to be complete by July 2007. The other structures include the Centre for Continuing and Distance Education, the Office of University-Community Relations and the President’s Round Table on Outreach and Engagement.
The proposal documents provided to Council describe the multi-faceted vision of the ULC: provide specific programs and services to support learners and teachers; promote and share methods for learner and teacher success; conduct research and develop activities relating to teaching and learning; and use emerging methods to help ensure learner and instructor success.
Initially, the ULC, which will be located in the main Library, will incorporate existing programs and services for students like the math help desk and writing centre, according to the proposal. These will become cornerstones of the University Learning Centre for Student Success (ULCSS) that will act as an umbrella for skill development “in as many of the following areas as can be managed,” said the document – study, information literacy, technology and communication.
The ULCSS will also set up an academic peer-mentoring/tutoring program. It is expected to appear in pilot form in January and be fully operational in the 2007-08 academic year.
To meet the needs of faculty, instructors and grad students, the ULC will also house the Gwenna Moss Teaching and Learning Centre (GMTLC) although eventually, the ULC is expected to prepare its own programs and services. The proposal also suggests a possible renewal of the peer consultation/mentoring program to improve faculty teaching by January, even if only as a pilot project.
The vision for the centre includes provision for a human as well as a “virtual” presence for every program or major activity at the ULC. That will mean online help desks and resources for both students and teachers.
The ULC will also look to existing academic and service units to share “the best in research, practice and application,” said the proposal, and to student organizations for their co-operation.
Acting ULC Director Jim Greer told Council academic units will initially work through the GMTLC board and the committee overseeing the development of the centre to co-ordinate their efforts. The result, he said, will be “many initiatives and programs conducted jointly with academic units and colleges…(because) clearly, that’s where most of the resources lie for teaching and learning.”
Included in the ULC proposal document was a budget that estimates its annual operating cost at about $1.2 million. This includes three full-time faculty with one serving as director of both the ULC and the GMTLC, eight professional staff, two administrative or clerical staff, part-time faculty secondments, student employees and $200,000 for programs, initiatives and operations.
Rigby told Council the budget should be considered preliminary because the Provost’s Committee on Integrated Planning has only approved $221,000 annually for the ULC from the Academic Priorities Fund. The rest of the funding is expected to come from the existing budget of the GMTLC, transfers of positions from Extension Division to the ULC, and the student enhancement fund. Final budget approval is expected later this fall, according to Barrie Dubray, assistant provost, Integrated Planning and analysis.
Work on physical space for the ULC is already underway in the Main Library. By January, it is expected the GMTLC will have moved into space vacated by the College of Graduate Studies and Research, and the math and writing centres will be re-located on the first floor adjacent to the learning commons.