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

Next Steps: Populating the Commons

The success of the Media Commons will be determined by how widely the facility is used by the Pacific community as well as by how fully it supports and encourages the use of digital media across disciplines. As we did in designing the Commons, we will depend heavily on our partners to achieve these goals. Our partners will not only ensure that we have the appropriate equipment and software to support digital media development, but they will also showcase how the Commons can be effectively used in teaching, learning, and scholarship. However, while our partners will be essential to the overall success of the facility, they will not be able to provide either the mentoring or instruction on the use of the technology to everyone at the University who may wish to utilize the resources in the Commons. The Library, therefore, will also need to provide direct support and training opportunities to the broader community. These training programs will be designed to both introduce the Commons to faculty and students new to multimodal scholarship, as well as to promote more advanced uses of the space.

The Commons will provide a space for students and faculty with expertise in multimedia production to informally demonstrate and teach these skills to others at the University. By having the Commons in a highly trafficked and visible area of the Library, the multimedia projects of students and faculty from our partner programs will be easily exposed to the greater Pacific community. This exposure will create the opportunity for those who have limited experience with multimedia production to see media creation and interact with those who are working on these projects. Such interactions will afford the opportunity for students and faculty with expertise in media development to share their knowledge with those who are beginning to explore these technologies and production methods, encouraging and deepening the use of multimedia across disciplines.        

While these informal interactions will serve as an important component in diffusing the use of multimedia techniques throughout the University Community, the interactions alone will not be sufficient to help all faculty and students integrate multimodal and new media techniques into their scholarship. To ensure that all faculty and students at Pacific will have the resources and models to successfully integrate multimodal scholarship into their academic work, we will implement four programs to support and encourage the use of the facility:

This layered approach to support and faculty development will provide faculty and students alike with a number of resources to help them as they engage in multimodal scholarship. To further encourage faculty and students to use the Commons, we will offer multimedia services and host classes and other events in the space. While we have not finalized a list of services, these would include production support for the creation of media-rich course content, support for the creation of scientific visualizations, and other types of multimedia production. In addition to increasing Pacific’s capacity to develop scholarly multimedia, these services will also reinforce the Commons’ position as the center of multimedia production on the Forest Grove campus.

The number of uses for the space could lead to scheduling conflicts and resources not being available to students or faculty who need to complete work for a deadline. We intend to alleviate these potential conflicts, in part by designing the Commons with enough capacity to handle a high demand. In addition, we will dedicate staff to work with faculty in the partner programs to schedule times for their students to utilize the Commons when they have projects or other coursework that will require heavy use of the facility. Because the Commons has three spaces, integrated but still distinct, we will be able to dedicate discrete spaces to students from our partner programs when they have intensive needs for the space, while still providing extra space for students from other partner programs as well as from the campus at large.

Because the space has a number of users, functions and stakeholders, it will require a multi-faceted approach to understand both how it is being used and whether or not it is successful. To this end, we have already begun to collect and look at basic usage statistics for the Commons and related services, such as the technology tutors and workshops. These numbers allow us to have a rough gauge for the popularity of particular services on the campus, when the services are being used, and whether or not we have adequate capacity. However, these statistics do not provide us with detailed information on how the Commons are being used or if it is meeting the broader goals of encouraging media production across disciplines. To understand these more intricate questions, we intend to survey and focus group both users of the Commons and the broader campus population. Through these methods, we will garner more detailed information on both the actual use of the Commons, how the Commons has influenced or encouraged the adoption and use of media practices across disciplines, and what gaps in services we might have. In addition to directly asking the patrons about their use of the Commons, we will also solicit feedback from our campus partners about their experience with the Commons and what they would like to see changed or enhanced. Finally, we will look at other indirect measures, such as the adoption of digital writing practices across disciplines, use of digital enhancements in Senior Capstone projects, and sophistication of student online artifacts, such as e-Portfolios, to gauge whether the Commons is having an impact on the broader use of digital media throughout the university community.

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