sustainable learning spaces

Sustainable Commons: Bringing Multimodal Composition and Digital Media Production to the (Physical) Center of Pacific University

Alfred Weiss, Pacific University
Marita Kunkel, Pacific University

Imagining a Digital Downtown
Developing Partnerships
Next Steps


Founded in 1849, Pacific University is a private university with 3,400 undergraduate and graduate students attending classes at campuses in Forest Grove, Hillsboro, and Eugene, Oregon. Despite its relatively modestly-sized student body, the University has a very diverse set of colleges and schools, including a comprehensive undergraduate Liberal Arts College; undergraduate professional programs in Education, Business, and Health; and graduate programs in the Fine Arts, Education, Optometry, and the Health Professions. The historic campus is located in Forest Grove, where a new 45,000-square-foot library opened in 2005. One year later, a campus opened in nearby Hillsboro, locating the College of Health Professions in a new health education district near the local hospital and medical clinics. This campus is poised for substantial growth over the next decade. The small Eugene campus delivers programs from the College of Education, although additional, new programs are planned for 2014.

Over the past decade, each of these colleges and programs has pursued a unique set of e-learning and educational technology objectives, with some graduate programs that function solely as online programs and blended courses, undergraduate courses that are highly technology-enhanced, and outreach and continuing education programs that are conducted partially or fully online. To support, coordinate, and promote these departmental and individual efforts into a more intentional and institution-wide approach, a new Director of Educational Technology and Curricular Innovation position was created in 2010 and placed administratively within the Library. As an inherently interdisciplinary institution, the Library has a unique academic role on the campus as the intellectual hub of the University, engaging with the colleges and departments to facilitate collaboration and cooperation across disciplinary boundaries. By placing the new director in the Library, which had long advocated for such a position, the University emphasized the interdisciplinary nature of the position and the hope that this new service would inspire an institution-wide culture of innovation in the use of digital technologies to support teaching and learning. Offices for the new director were located in the libraries on both the Forest Grove and Hillsboro campuses.

The following summer, the Center for Educational Technology and Curricular Innovation was established. A major task for the Center, essentially a virtual space, was to develop a coherent set of workshops, training sessions, colloquia, and other professional development opportunities to provide faculty with the knowledge and skills to effectively adopt e-learning strategies in a variety of classes and disciplines. However, the Library had limited facilities dedicated to faculty development and no spaces where faculty could experiment with classroom technologies or innovative teaching strategies. To address this problem, the Director for Educational Technology and Curricular Innovation and the University Librarian began looking for spaces within the Forest Grove Campus Library to accommodate the programmatic needs of the new Center.

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