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Press Release                                                                                        
February 19, 2021
(By Lisa Garrett)

Learning Commons Team Receives A. Wade Martin Innovative Team of the Year Award

       PENDLETON - ­­Tri-County Technical College’s Learning Commons Team today (February 19) received the prestigious A. Wade Martin Innovative Team of the Year Award for its collaborative work to continue to provide excellent and innovative resources and services to students during the COVID-19 crisis. 

The team was honored during the annual SC Technical Education Association (SCTEA) Conference held virtually. The award recognizes innovative approaches to meet changing needs of technical college education at the college and/or system levels.

Last March TCTC changed how it delivers educational experiences, shifting from an in-person to hybrid and online learning environments.

A team of faculty and staff from the Learning Commons transformed the College’s traditionally-separate library and tutoring services into an integrated unit with a single mission statement. 

The team, led by Mary Orem, head librarian and director of the Learning Commons, had a goal to redefine its objectives to help students to become more effective, efficient and self-empowered learners. The way to do so was to grow students’ college-ready skills through learning literacies. 

“The nine-member group undertook a co-curricular approach to purposefully integrate the science of learning with critical literacy skills to outline a set of learning literacies that would support and engage students more specifically in an online learning environment,” said Orem.

“Our Learning Commons staff did not hesitate when faced with this obstacle; rather, they embraced the challenge and leapt into action. They reached out to faculty to discuss ways in which they could meet students where they are—in the online classroom,” said Jennifer Hulehan, dean of TCTC’s Academic and Career Foundations department.

The Learning Commons team partnered with faculty in the Academic and Career Foundations department who teach a College Skills class that addresses study skills, stress management, campus resources, time management and other subjects to facilitate student success. 

Faculty and staff took this course content and embedded it into their online learning management system so students taking College Skills could get the extra support services they needed.

The Learning Commons team provided office hours so students could drop in and ask questions about anything that challenged them. The team also embedded a tutoring program whereby each College Skills course was assigned a designated tutor to provide go-to support for students learning online for the first time.

“These resources were ideal for those who were struggling with content and how to learn in an online environment by offering extra support,” said Orem.

The Learning Commons team also established a catalog of Skillshops, low-key sessions that highlight learning and critical thinking skills, resources and approaches that help students to become more effective learners.

Each Skillshop is offered face-to-face and/or online. Topics included learning how to learn, time management issues, study strategies, relationships between the body and the brain, implicit bias, the digital world and plagiarism.

 “We were successful before COVID-19 struck but we became more and more relevant.  We are supporting an online environment in ways we never had before,” said Orem.

“The creation of these new ways to meet students where they are to provide them with the support they need for success in such a short time period is a feat in and of itself.  However, perhaps the most impressive accomplishment is the collaborative implementation of these initiatives. That high level of collaboration resulted in a significant contribution to delivering a high-quality learning experience in this strange, new digital world,” said Hulehan.

SCTEA is a professional association of technical education personnel and others interested in post-secondary technical education

The Innovator of the Year and the Innovative Team awards are named for A. Wade Martin, who was the first executive director of the SC Technical College System.



About Tri-County Technical College
Tri-County Technical College, a public two-year community and technical college serving Anderson, Oconee and Pickens Counties in South Carolina, enrolls more than 9,000 students annually and offers more than 70 major fields of study, including computer technology, industrial electronics, mechatronics, nursing, and university transfer programs. Tri-County boasts the highest student success rate among two-year colleges in the state and ranks in the top one percent nationally for successful student transfers to four-year colleges and universities. To learn more, visit tctc.edu.