Rinella Learning Center Enters Training Collaboration with Other Universities

Front desk of the Rinella Learning CenterMiami’s Rinella Learning Center recently collaborated with learning center staff at Ohio University and Ball State University to offer new training workshops for student staff.

The training emerged as a response to student staff concerns related to the return to in-person services after the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, most student staff members had only conducted sessions in a virtual environment. The transition to in-person sessions was difficult for many of the tutors and Supplemental Instruction (SI) leaders.

"Leading into the Fall 2021 semester, the delivery of academic assistance was difficult to predict, said Gary Ritz, associate director of the Rinella Learning Center. "There were a lot of unknowns on how this transition back to in-person sessions would be for our staff."

After hearing about similar concerns at Ohio University and Ball State University, the idea for a joint workshop was born. What if the student staffs could share their experiences and get ideas on how to make their in-person sessions more successful?

This multi-university collaboration was formed by staff connected through the national organization NCLCA (National College Learning Center Association), an organization that supports learning centers across the nation.

In September, the idea came to fruition. Two virtual workshops were held, one for tutors and one for SI leaders. Learning center staff members from all three universities could also attend. The sessions included an open forum discussion related to the transition back to in-person services, student expectations, strategies for in-person clients, and observations from the start of the semester. Between the three participating universities, 42 tutors and 24 SI leaders attended.

"Students from all the institutions were eager to hear what others were doing to gain insight on how to make their sessions better," said Ritz.

Students shared positive feedback about the workshops. They appreciated the sharing of ideas and strategies and the ability to interact with peers at other institutions. Because the workshops were so successful, professional staff members plan to continue this collaboration. They will offer another round of workshops during the spring 2022 semester.

The professional staff is also planning to apply for a national grant to help support this type of collaboration in the future.