Faculty Commons, located in 116 Pearson Hall, a new space to support UD teaching faculty, is now open. A grand opening reception is scheduled at 3 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 13.

Faculty Commons

Faculty Commons grand opening set Nov. 13 in 116 Pearson Hall


1:17 p.m., Nov. 5, 2014--Faculty Commons, located in 116 Pearson Hall, is a new place on campus designed to meet the needs of those who teach at the University of Delaware.

Faculty Commons provides faculty members with an on-campus destination to get teaching and technology support, to collaborate with one another, or just to have a cup of coffee and wind down between classes. The facility brings together a network of teaching support units that can work with teaching faculty formally and informally.

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On Thursday, Nov. 13, from 3-6 p.m., the units organizing Faculty Commons will host a grand opening reception in 116 Pearson Hall to introduce faculty to the features available to them in the flexible-use facility.

As faculty members enter Faculty Commons, they’ll be greeted at a welcome bar by teaching support staff, then find a large lounge area, a concept “sandbox” classroom, two private conference rooms with web-conferencing options, a recording studio, and staff offices. 

“It’s a wonderful, comfortable space to relax, do some work, get teaching help, charge my phone or computer, and just relax. It’s an oasis,” said Nancy Karibjanian, adjunct professor in the Department of Communication, who has been using Faculty Commons already.

Because there are so many units on campus that support faculty members' teaching efforts — like Information Technologies, the University of Delaware Library, Center for Teaching and Assessment of Learning (CTAL), Institute for Transforming Undergraduate Education and many more — it can be difficult for faculty to identify and assemble all of the available campus resources.

“There was a clear need on campus for a place like this,” explained Mathieu Plourde, project leader with IT Academic Technology Services (IT-ATS). “Faculty Commons really caters to faculty members who have questions about teaching whether it’s in the classroom, online, or some combination of the two.” 

“Faculty can try out new and emerging technologies in the sandbox classroom,” said Paul Rickards, deputy CIO and director for IT-ATS. “By sharing their experience with new teaching methods, faculty can give us valuable feedback when we consider scaling up support for a new technology or service.”

Indeed, technology and comfort abounds in the Faculty Commons:

  • The sandbox classroom is a flexible space to practice new teaching techniques using shared video displays, SMART Boards and modern glass whiteboards. 
  • The lounge has two, deep booth-seating areas, each outfitted with large, wireless monitors that connect to a user’s computer. 
  • The recording studio has a high-quality video camera and microphone for faculty who wish to record instructional videos or create UD Capture recordings. 
  • Electrical outlets can be found everywhere, making it convenient to charge today’s myriad of electronic devices. 
  • There’s even a 3D printer and early examples of printed objects to generate ideas for potential instructional uses.

In addition to the technology Faculty Commons has to offer, it also provides a “one stop shop” for support related to teaching and learning with those technologies. 

“It gets very confusing since so many groups support teaching efforts at UD,” said Plourde. “Faculty Commons becomes that central space for help.” 

Kevin Guidry, senior research analyst with CTAL, emphasized this point. “It will be really nice for us to have one common space outside of an individual academic department that we can all share and use on a consistent basis,” he said. “Faculty will be able to collaborate on issues related to teaching here, especially since expert assistance will always be available.”

Faculty Commons is available for anyone involved in teaching students — full-time professors, adjunct professors, and teaching assistants.

“Our hope is that faculty will see Faculty Commons as an opportunity,” said Plourde. “We want to spark the imagination of faculty members so they can help define the kind of experiences they want to have here and the kind of support they want from us and other units on campus.”

Faculty Commons will be hosting departmental meetings and educational sessions, as well as several social events where faculty members can meet and collaborate informally. The Faculty Commons website includes a public calendar available for faculty members interested in attending or planning an event. 

Plourde said “this is a space for meeting colleagues from other departments. Faculty can talk with each other about their teaching and learning, their scholarship, their research, and then they can try to figure out if there are any bridges between their disciplines that haven't been explored. We want to encourage that interdisciplinary kind of approach — to encourage different people from different departments to interact with each other and to start coming up with new ideas.”

Faculty Commons is open from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on weekdays and is located in 116 Pearson Hall. For more information, visit the website, call 831-0640, or email faculty-commons@udel.edu.

Article by Christopher Johnson

Photos courtesy of UD Faculty Commons 

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