San Diego Mesa College’s new LOFT – Learning Opportunities for Transformation – space,
located in the Learning Resource Center, opened in April 2016, and now staff and faculty
have a dedicated space on campus for professional learning.
Created as a venue for professional development, the $270,500 renovation of the LOFT
space from its previous configuration came from a five-year, $2.5 million Title V
Grant for Hispanic Serving Institutions.
Dr. Leticia Lopez was one of the main faculty members on campus who “spearheaded”
the development of the LOFT as a way to provide employee training that will ultimately
result in improved outcomes for students, according to Monica Romero – the Program
Activity Manager for the Proyecto Éxito Title V/HIS Grant. Adding to Lopez and Romero’s
efforts was software specialist Supervisor Kevin Branson, who worked on the technological
developments within the LOFT.
During the development stages, input from the campus’ faculty and staff was incorporated
on how they would like to see the LOFT be utilized. The facility, now in operation,
is often full of employees conducting meetings, developing plans, grading papers and
training on new technology.
“We see a lot more of cross-discipline and cross-departmental conversations, which
will really help the campus to evolve and grow,” Romero said.
The redesigned space is laid out in such a way to be fluid, and foster creativity
and collaboration. Most of the furniture in the LOFT is moveable, allowing the construction
of personalized spaces to suit various needs. Brightly colored armchairs sit in front
of windows overlooking the campus, and the walls are adorned with live plants.
“The key piece of the LOFT is flexibility, and almost everything in the space is moveable,”
Romero said. “What we didn’t want to create was a space where everything is predetermined
and preset, because that’s not what happens in the classroom. A flexible learning
space supports a flexible mind.”
The LOFT is home to four rolling monitors, with ClickShare systems to wirelessly connect
laptops and tablets to them. Up to four devices can be projected at any given time
to one monitor allowing for true collaboration amongst groups using them.
In addition to the monitors, faculty and staff also have access to the LOFT’s nine
PC, desktop computers; two Mac desktops; six tablets; six laptops; six iPads; a Scantron
machine; a printer; and a teleconference phone. There are also moveable whiteboards,
dry erase markers and other office supplies that can be used in the space.
Faculty and staff positions were established to run professional learning and the
LOFT for the campus. LOFT Instructional Designer Katie Palacios works with faculty
on staff in many capacities, including helping to design or redesign courses, working
with new technology, Blackboard support and creating instructional videos.
One of the biggest projects that she works on is the Learning 2 Workshop Series, aimed
toward professional development efforts for Mesa’s faculty members. Workshops in the
series thus far have included humanizing online teaching, bringing life to your syllabus
and smart phone recording.
Palacios said that the key to redeveloping coursework is not as much about completely
changing an instructor’s teaching style, but really helping to engage a larger demographic
of the student body.
“Humanizing our teaching in general – just being real to our students, connecting
to the content that we’re teaching, showing our passion for the discipline that we’re
teaching – I think that can help students also get engaged in that same content,”
Palacios said. “That might be done by providing more active learning experiences for
our students, too, so that they can be participants in the learning process.”
Senior Clerical Assistant Eva Parrill said that while the reactions to the LOFT have
been positive thus far, they are still growing and developing what resources it will
provide to faculty and staff in the future.
“Since we’re new, we’re kind of testing things out a little as far as what we can
add and what else we can offer,” Parrill said.
In the future, Palacios said that they hope to expand the range of workshops that
are offered and to establish a space in the LOFT for faculty to record videos. The
LOFT, which is part of the School of Learning Resources and Academic Support at Mesa
College, will soon be filled with two new positions – a professional development coordinator
and instructional lab technician.
Tags: Professional Development, The Loft