Teaching & Learning Champions 13: How Library Services and Student Life promote student learning and persistence
May 29, 2020
Today on Teaching & Learning Champions, we’re joined by Ashley Carr, Reference Librarian & Associate Professor for Library Services; Carrie Gits, Associate Professor & Head Librarian (HLC); Jennifer Flowers, Coordinator, Student Life. We’re talking about how Library Services and Student Life promote student learning and persistence.
Thanks for listening to TLC @ ACC!
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[Matthew Evins:] Welcome to another episode of Teaching and Learning Champions. I’m Matt Evins, Director of Instructional Technology and Digital Resources and the Teaching and Learning Excellence Division at ACC. Today I’m joined by Ashley Carr, Reference Librarian and Associate Professor for Library Services. Carrie Gits, Associate Professor and Head librarian at the Highland Campus and Jennifer Flowers, Coordinator of Student Life. As we talk about how Library Services and Student Life promote student learning and persistence. Thank you everybody for joining me today.
[Jennifer Flowers:] Thank you.
[Ashley Carr:] Thank you.
[Carrie Gits:] Thanks for having us, Matt.
[Matthew Evins:] Let’s go ahead and start with the first question. What would you say are the goals or mission of your area? And, Jennifer, why don’t we go and start with Student Life?
[Jennifer Flowers:] Ok. Great. Yes. So, first of all, thank you so much for having us. So, the vision for Student Life it’s just to be an exceptional and innovative Student Affairs Department that creates and cultivates a culture that empowers students. We promote an environment committed to students’ personal, emotional, cultural, social and even ethical department and we provide a very unique learning experience through a variety of organizations, community building events, experiential learning programs and leadership opportunities. And so, when you hear Student Life, we are the classroom without walls. We try to lead students to be the best that they can throughout their ACC journey.
[Matthew Evins:] That’s great. Thank you very much. Carrie, how about from the libraries?
[Carrie Gits:] Sure. So, Library Services really aims to support the teaching and learning of both students and faculty at ACC, and we do this by providing access to a variety of resources, spaces, services, for both, again, students and faculty, and this ranges from librarians that are in our classrooms and teaching in our accelerators on information literacy and promoting critical thinking and helping our students build their research skills, not only for those course papers, but for those life skills beyond the classroom. Our librarians provide one on one assistance to students, both in person and online, at the point of need, for the student, throughout their research process or as they’re navigating various college systems, and our librarians also serve as subject liaisons to all the areas of study in the college and this allows them to build their relationship with faculty so, that we can purchase and curate a collection of materials that is diverse and that represents and supports the curriculum, whether it be print books, physically on our shelves, e-books, online magazines and streaming journals, so that both students have access, and faculty have access, to those anytime that they need. And our spaces really provide an opportunity for students to work individually or collaborate with one another. We are providing technology to our students on site, as well as allowing them to check things out, whether it’s an iPad or a graphing calculator, and collaboratively, combining all of these aspects. You know, Library Services is supporting the teaching and learning and really leading students on this successful pathway through their time at ACC.
[Matthew Evins:] Great. Thank you very much. It sounds like both Student Life and Library Services certainly have your hands full with as much support as you’re providing to our students. So, thank you for that.
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Ashley, what types of support is available to students, through Library Services, to help them — help encourage them to continue in their coursework?
[Ashley Carr:] So, the first thing that we always tell students is there are librarians available to help them with any question that they have, really. You know, our primary role is support for research, but we help students with all sorts of questions, from getting registered for classes to finding out where they can get financial aid. So, we sort of serve as people who connect students to the resources that they need, in order to be successful. So, whether that’s at the reference desk or online, through our chat services or e-mail services, we get questions all the time. You know, “How do I find this research?” or “How do I find, you know, where I can sign up for financial aid?” We help with those things. We have a ton of online resources for students to access, to help them be successful, so, e-books to help their curriculum, streaming videos that would help in their curriculum also, lots of materials that help students to sort of select their career path or, you know, even select a field of study that they might be interested in. So, we’ve collected books that provide students with information about careers and just fields of study with added new databases. We also have some great databases that have great training modules on technology, computer programs that they might be using, even test preparation for any test that they might be taking, in order to prepare for their careers, and then we have lots of online tutorials and guides to help students through their research process. It’s just a few of the many resources that we have available for students.
[Matthew Evins:] Yeah. It sounds like it’s quite a bit. Before we move off of that topic, just a follow up question, with all the services you provide to students to help them with persistence in their courses, is it all student driven or are there things or places where faculty can go to, I guess, advocate on behalf of a particular student? Or how do — how does the library get involved with helping a student through persistence?
[Ashley Carr:] Directly, you know through students coming to ask for us. We do have lots of contact with, specially at Highland, with the accelerator. A lot of academic coaches will bring students over to help them with specific issues related to research or finding a resource that might help them. Faculty do reach out to us a lot. We actually do have a whole selection of guides, specifically aimed at faculty to help them insert library resources into their courses, you know, to give faculty the information, in order to provide that to their students, so, that in their Blackboard courses, they’re in their courses as embedded library materials that will help them be successful. I think that —
[Carrie Gits:] Yeah. And this is Carrie. I would just add to — I mean, we work closely with a lot of departments across the college. I mean, one example is our partnership with the Student Support Center, and we have the textbook collection at Highland, which we help facilitate with the Support Center. So, providing, you know, that access to those course materials for those students and facilitating access to those resources that is equitable and is not a cost barrier to those students, so allowing them to have access to those resources on day one and when they need the textbook for their — to be successful in their course. So, I think that collaboration across the departments, too.
[Matthew Evins:] Great. Great. Excellent. Thank you very much. Jennifer, what types of resources does Student Life provide to students to help them with the non-academic aspects of being in the school?
[Jennifer Flowers:] Yeah. So, we have an array of programs that we offer our students. We have the Riverbat Success Programming and under that, we have Connect. Connect is a chance for students to link up with Student Life. We do
[inaudible] biweekly on campuses across the district to connect students with Student Life resources. Also, we have our Riverbat ambassadors. These are student leaders who work in the Office of Student Life and they help create a community at ACC by providing peer to peer engagement through intentional conversation in non-campus events. We have a Riverbat annual programming. Student Life hosts events for students to connect to resources to help them grow and, we can’t forget, to have fun, as well. So, we also have Welcome Week, Wellness Week, Finals Week activities, to connect students with their community. And, each Fall we have the Riverbat Bash, which students are engaged to connect with community resources, as well. And we have student organizations, where we encourage students to experience them to connect to their personal and professional academic development, also, to give them an opportunity to hold leadership position. And then, also we have our campus and community resources. On each campus we have a food pantry that is available for all ACC student free to use. And just this Fall — Fall of — yes, it’s this past fall, we served 6,257 students, and we just saw about a 168 percent increase over the previous year. So, we know that food insecurity is a big topic and also a basic need that needs to be focused on. And then, also we have our partnership with the Central Texas Food Bank that we collaborate with, probably over the past year and a half. And the fourth Friday of every month, Central Texas Food Bank comes to Riverside Campus and gives away close to like, sometimes over 11,000 tons of food. Rain or shine, Student Life, we are out there, along with our volunteers. Community partnerships that we also have,we have sexual health awareness and STI testing that we partner up with AIDS services of Austin. We have intramural sports and just a lot of opportunities for students to get engaged and connected. It is — we try to stress to get connected with the college because if students are connected with the college, then they will retain within the college and, hopefully, get to the completion and graduation.
[Matthew Evins:] That’s pretty impactful, the number of students that you’re impacting or that you’re engaging with them for non-academic purposes. That’s excellent. How, and this question is for everybody, but how have your areas changed or adapted since the college has adoption the Guided Pathways model? And so, Jennifer, since you were — since you finished up there, why don’t we go ahead and start with you on this question.
[Jennifer Flowers:] Yeah. So, student organizations, they created the targeted marketing plan aimed at increasing the number of areas study organizations that ensures academic disciplines, and also has a student led cocurricular aspect. Also, to align with Guided Pathways, we’ve transitioned to a district wide planning and programming, creating a system where we have process holders that are represented in the North, the Central and the South region. And also, to achieve the open goal, the overall goal of being student led and staff supported. So, Student Life, we recruit, we hire, we train a diverse set of Riverbat ambassadors, which is through the federal work study program, that represent various areas of study that are offered by the college. And so, we teach our students to lead, to build relationship and understand their areas of study so, they can act as peer mentors on their campuses and also promote community engagement. And then, also, Student Life refocussed our annual programming to align with the Guided Pathways by hosting an annual Area of Study Resource Fair, which is known as the Riverbat Bash, to ensure students become acquainted with the services and opportunities available to the college to enhance their academic journey.
[Matthew Evins:] And, I’m sorry, Carrie from the student, from Library Services.
[Carrie Gits:] Sure. So, one of the things that we initially did is when I mentioned earlier the subject guides, the research guides that librarians have created and the liaison rules that they serve as subject librarians to the areas of study across the college. So, each of those librarians took those research guides which focused on library resources, e-books, online databases, and they created sections for each of those which focused on career opportunities and career resources for that area of study. And so, we’ve been able to create kind of a one stop shop location for students to not only find resources that will support them for their coursework, but also resources that will support them for their projected career path or certificate, or degree path, on those subject guides. So, that was one of the first things that we did to support Guided Pathways. And, along the way, we’ve created additional guides. We have a very successful, student success learning toolbox online guide that has everything from area of study information, to technology support, and faculty, often include that in some of their syllabi or information in Blackboard. We really focus on the interactions with our students, whether they are in person or online. We actually record those transactions, and we measure the transactions with student learning outcomes. So, we’ve been able to identify what types of questions our students are asking, the needs that they have, and we’ve been able to make modifications to our website, or to the subject guides, to really make the resources easier for students to find and support them along the way. And I mentioned our collaboration with the support center earlier, with the textbook collection, but this collaboration has really allowed us to help students stay on path and to continue their learning along the way because it has allowed us to participate with faculty in identifying open educational resources and zero cost textbook materials that students can have perpetual access to, there, eliminate those barriers and these financial barriers to course materials and librarians are actively involved with faculty and selecting and identifying, evaluating those resources. So, that’s really been something in the last two years that has, that librarians have been very involved with. And even looking at our spaces, when we look at the regionalization of things, making sure that we are providing services at the time of need, so, whether that is our group study rooms available in evenings and weekends, we have online services that are available 24/7. We do have access — students have access to librarians at their point of need, when they need them, and so, continuing to provide that support for students in any program, in any curriculum, at the time that they need, has been our big focus. And then, just kind of we’ve also participated — I think Student Life has helped us host some of these events, but focusing on these career and lifelong learning skills, critical thinking, through our maker space, pop-up maker space activities that we’ve had throughout the campuses. So, again, participating in some of those other areas of studies, sessions and programs that are offered by the other departments like Student Life, as well, have been something that we’ve taken more initiative and an active role in, as well.
[Matthew Evins:] So, I mean, we talked about this at the very beginning of the recording and, you know, the number of services that both Student Life and Library Services provide for the students is astronomical in numbers and the reach that you have is great. What types of feedback have both of your groups received, from students, on the impact of the services that you’re providing in supporting their educational persistence through their coursework? Ashley, do you want to start from the Library Services stand point? Ashley, I think you’re on mute.
[Ashley Carr:] Thank you. Sorry. So, as a reference librarian, one of my favorite parts in my job is serving students at the reference desk and — so they come and ask questions and, you know, we help them with their research, and then, almost universally, every time we have a conversation with a student, they say, “Thank you. You’ve saved my paper. You’ve made it so much easier for me to, you know, do the next step. You got me in touch with the right people.” So, that’s like the best part of the job. And, you know, as we’ve moved online, a lot of our chat services end with similar sort of exclamatory statements about how we’ve made things easier for them, in one way or another. You know, more — I guess formally speaking, we — among all the big surveys that go out, like CECI, libraries get about 90 percent of positive reviews for their services, 90 percent of ACC students are using the library at least once per semester and it’s something like 60 percent use the library on a weekly basis. So, I think students are enthusiastic about our services. There are about 20 percent of students that don’t know quite as much about the library services, and we’re still trying to figure out ways to reach out to them because I think we have a lot to offer for them.
[Matthew Evins:] And, Jennifer, I need feedback from the Student Life side.
[Jennifer Flowers:] Oh, yes. I definitely have to add on to what Ashley was saying. When we provide Welcome Week, which is like the first week of each semester, we have a lot of students that are lost. They don’t even know where their classes are at and we show them the various departments, whether it’s the Testing Center, the Support Center, the Library. When we take them up to the library and I’ll speak, because I’m at the Hays Campus, they don’t even realize that, at the library, you can check out a calculator. You have a reference librarian there that can help you with your paper. So, I think when you give them that personal touch, they see all the resources that are at the tip of their fingertips. And so much feedback from our students, I take pride in all of my students. Then, this is why I’ve been with Student Life for over 14 years. One student said to me, “Thank you for starting me on an amazing journey in life.” She is now a forensic social worker at Baylor Scott in
[inaudible] Temple. And then I have another student who is in child protective services. And our most recent guest speaker for
[inaudible], which is an award’s recognition that we have for students said, “Thank you so much for pushing me into doing classroom presentations,” because these are soft transferable skills that we try to incorporate in our students, whether it’s teamwork, organization, adaptability, leadership and these are skills that they take, whether it’s, whether they transfer or to their, you know, to their job. And it’s just rewarding to hear how we play a part in their educational journey. One of my other students, he transferred from ACC, went to Texas State, he graduated with his International Business degree. He interned at the White House, and he’s now pursuing his master’s at Georgetown University, in Washington D.C. So, it’s just about pushing these students, giving them a little push, a little — — culture of care, is what I like to say, and challenging them to see the potential that they have. And they come back and they thank Student Life for just believing in them and for giving them those opportunities that they probably wouldn’t get anywhere else.
[Matthew Evins:] Great. Thank you. The last question that I have, at least, related to Guided Pathways, are there any other projects or initiatives around your areas that will be beneficial for faculty and staff to know as it relates to Guided Pathways? Either things that are happening now or that you anticipate starting in the near future? Jennifer, anything from Student Life?
[Jennifer Flowers:] Yeah. To me, the current needs of our students. Student Life, we usefully immerse ourselves in all things virtual. We strive to provide a myriad of ways for students to connect with us online, for meeting personal or academic goals, brain breaks, leadership opportunities, just to connect with it all.
[Matthew Evins:] Ok. And from the libraries, either Carrie or Ashley?
[Carrie Gits:] Yeah. This is Carrie. I think, to echo what Jennifer said, you know, the needs of our students have changed dramatically, right now, in our current situation and so, really focusing on our increase in digital resources and making them easier and more streamlined to find an access, both for students and faculty but also, our increase in access to technology, the library along with you Matt and TLED have been very supportive and really helped distribute the iPads to students, and so, really, library focusing on providing the technology to students and looking at ways that we can continue to support that at a larger scale. And then, one of the things that Ashley’s been very involved in, and she can add to this, but, you know, quickly turning around, instructional videos about our library resources so that faculty can, you know, if we’re not able to do a Webex or a Google Meet information literacy session, the faculty can provide instruction about researching for their students. And we’ve even started converting or creating some of those videos in American Sign language to serve our diverse needs of our students, so, just really thinking about the immediate needs of our students at this time and continuing to work with both — listen to them and continue to work with both faculty and students on their needs.
[Ashley Carr:] So, in addition to these videos that we’ve made that are student facing, we’ve made about four videos that our faculty facing specifically addressing how faculty can incorporate resources into their courses, so, how to add a canape video, which is one of our video providers, to their class that students could access it from their Blackboard class, or how faculty members can link directly to an article from the databases so that they can point their students to it. So, you know, we’ve been sort of dividing our time between creating videos that are helpful for students and videos that are helpful for faculty.
[Matthew Evins:] Excellent. Well, the last question I have for all three of you, which is not related necessarily to Guided Pathways, is, is there anything that’s given you Riverbat pride this week? I realize it’s only Tuesday. So, if you have to pull from something from last week, that’s fine as well. Carrie, do you want to start?
[Carrie Gits:] Sure. So, I attended or sat in a part of the online board meeting, last night, on Monday evening, and I happen to log in just as about, just as Doctor Cook was starting his report on student success. And he was talking about the latest report on OER and course material savings that the initiatives of the college has had and the impact that that has had, not only on faculty, but on students’ grades and reducing withdrawal rate since faculty adopt OER. And it just made me extremely proud that Library Services and librarians have had an active and visible role in this piece of our students’ success. So, that was my Riverbat pride moment for this week.
[Matthew Evins:] Jennifer, how about you?
[Jennifer Flowers:] I’m just proud of how ACC has stepped it up virtually. Things have been going by very quickly and to see how just all of our departments have just stepped up and just created something that is just not brand new, but like they heightened it, and it becomes so much more useful to our students that we probably didn’t even know existed, or we would use it this soon. And just to see how the Student Life department has just stepped it up, as well, just doing things online and still connecting with our students. So, just, you know, it’s a — to be Riverbat. There you go. How about that?
[Matthew Evins:] That’s very true. And — — Ashley, how about you?
[Ashley Carr:] So, I was fortunate to be in the first role out of the Teaching and Learning Academy this year which we just completed I believe, last Friday. And our last conversation was about, you know, how we can continue the learning, and it was so interesting to talk to all of my colleagues, in the Teaching and Learning Academy, and they were talking about what they’re doing in their classes, now that they’re online and how they’re adapting their Lab classes to an online environment, and it’s just really inspiring to me to hear all the innovation that’s going on. And then, all the concern that all the, you know, all the faculty here at ACC have for students and how they’re thinking about ways that they can help students in various ways. So, that was my Riverbat pride moment.
[Matthew Evins:] Right. Well, Carrie, Ashley and Jennifer, thank you very much for joining me today. I appreciate hearing everything that both Library Services and Student Life are doing to support our students and our faculty. So, thank you very much
[Jennifer Flowers:] Thank you.
[Carrie Gits:] Thank you, Matt.
[Ashley Carr:] Thank you.
[Matthew Evins:] Well, that wraps up another episode of Teaching and Learning Champions. Don’t forget that you can view blog posts for each episode on the TLED website. I also encourage you to subscribe the ACC District podcast on any of your preferred podcast apps or listen to individual episodes on the TLED website. Thank you for tuning in and we’ll chat next time on TLC at ACC.
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