Visit to Otero Junior College Learning Commons


On April 18, I was able to visit Otero Junior College’s beautifully renovated Learning Commons in La Hunta, Colorado. Here are some of the highlights.

  • Love how old and new architectural elements were melded. Original wood paneling in the ceiling gives the main room an organic feel
  • Cafe space integrated into the Library (the only Starbucks in town!). The cafe space can be used for events and trainings without disturbing students in other areas of the Learning Commons.
  • Carpet colors were used to create a “pathway” to the main service points, eliminating the need for most signage
  • “Did you read this?” tally marks on magazines to track usage of materials
  • Plenty of technology additions! Carts of computers for checkout by students or faculty. Two video editing rooms, plenty of outlets for laptops near seating areas.
  • Incorporation of local art connects with local history (including the giant dinosaur shoulder blade!)

Huge thanks to Sue Keefer for showing us around her gorgeous space!

Formative assessment the way of the future for library instruction?

In my job at DU, I received the following email about a new classroom assessment tool that could replace clickers:

From Top Hat Monocle: Our system is quickly becoming regarded as the next generation of clicker technology and is gaining popularity at universities across North America.  You can see a write up about us in TIME magazine here:

For this academic year, we are looking for professors who would be interested in taking a look at our system, as well as possibly testing it out in their classrooms.  We’re currently conducting quick, 20-minute online demonstrations for professors at DU to take a closer look at Top Hat.

Our system allows instructors to receive live feedback from students during their lecture, as well as employ a wide range of question types including free response, numerical, and click on target, in addition to the more traditional multiple choice and true/false questions that clicker devices can handle.  Also, it allows students to utilize the electronic devices they already own (e.g. laptops, iPads, iPods, smart-phones, and even traditional mobile phones) which means no hardware is necessary to purchase by either students or the university. Most importantly, our tool is as easy to use as PowerPoint and will coordinate smoothly with your lecture.

Image by Pays de Montfort en Broceliande, Flickr Creative Commons License
Image by Pays de Montfort en Broceliande, Flickr Creative Commons License

This kind of system (and I’m sure there are other similar ones out there!) raises all kinds of possibilities for use with library instruction. For one, it could be much easier than clickers since students could use the computers in the instruction lab to respond to questions in real-time, with the results populating on the larger screen.

Since the goal of  formative assessment (as I understand it) is to be able to incorporate feedback immediately and adjust instruction to best fit the needs of the studentrs, wouldn’t it be great to know that, in fact, no one understood what you just said about using ILLiad? Or that this incredibly silent group of students already knows about Prospector and really wants to move on to something else?

For gadget-loving students, the ability to use their own smartphones, tablets, or other devices could be a fun way to break up the class with an interactive element.

Using technology to facilitate instruction
Image by University of Central Arkansas, via Flickr Creative Commons license.

The one potential hang-up I see is that libraries might need to figure out a different pricing model compared with other teaching departments on campus. In Top Hat’s case, they charge the student $20 per year to use this service (much cheaper than clickers) and the instructor has no fee–if this kind of service were used in libraries, would the library pay for the service? Or is the goal that this service would be adopted campus-wide so that students would already have accounts and be using this tool in their other classes?

Intriguing, at any rate! Would be curious to know what experiences people have had using similar technologies at their institutions.