Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Learning Center Issues, Then and Now: An Interview with Frank Christ

Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Learning Center Issues, Then and Now: An Interview with Frank Christ

Article excerpt

Frank Christ is the founder and co-direc- tor of the Winter Insti- tutes for Learning As- sistance Professionals and has been actively involved with learning assistance and learn- ing centers for the past 40 years. He was the founder and past co- ordinator (i972-1990) of the award-winning Learning Assistance Support System at CSULB. Frank is also a founder and past presi- dent of the Western College Reading As- sociation, now known as the College Reading and Learning Asso- ciation. His numerous editorial contributions include the WCRA Proceedings, New Directions for Learn- (Jossey-Bass), founding ing Assistance series editor for learning skills columnist of "Techtalk; booklets and Starting Up A Learning Assistance Center: Conversations with CRLA Members Who Have Been There and Done That (H & H Publishing Company), and founder and content editor of LSCHE, the learning support center Web portal. In addition, Frank has authored or coauthored more than a dozen books including 100 Things Every Online Student Ought to Know (Cambridge Stratford Ltd.) and Online Skills 8c Strategies Handbook (Allyn & Bacon). Christ was inducted as a Fellow of the Council of Learning Assistance and Developmental Education Associations in 2000.

Barbara Calderwood (B.C.): Over the 20+ years I have known you, Frank, you have maintained that LACs ought to serve the entire campus community, from underprepared students to honors students as well as faculty, staff, and administrators. How do learning centers today differ from those with which you were associated at the beginning of your career?

Frank Christ (F.C.): Most learning centers did not then and do not now serve entire campus communities, although, as a comprehensive center, the Learning Assistance Center at California State University Long Beach (CSULB; 1973-89) did by conducting workshops for faculty, senior administration, and campus staff. Most learning centers focused on remediation in those early years. Today, although most learning centers do not serve faculty, campus staff, and administrators, they have moved away from a focus on remediation to content assistance through tutoring, Supplemental Instruction, and study strategies development as well as increased effectiveness and efficiency.

Another difference today is the use of technology. Centers now can easily capture, analyze, and report usage data with available software such as Accutrak and TutorTrac. In addition, centers have Web sites to publicize programs and services and some centers offer study skills surveys and links to Web sites for study skills handouts. Staff training is more pervasive due to the availability of listservs such as LRNASST, Web sites like LSCHE (both of which focus exclusively on learning support in higher education), and online graduate courses.

B.C.: What are the main difficulties and problems that learning centers are facing today?

F.C.: I can think of seven problems that reflect a lack of learning center identity and recognition; this scarce recognition results in a minimal political voice for learning centers in higher education.

1. Lack of recognition by higher education as- sociations like ASHE (Association for the Study of Higher Education), Educause, NAS- PA (National Association of Student Per- sonnel Administrators), NISOD (National Institute for Staff and Organizational Devel- opment), POD (Professional and Organiza- tional Development), and STLHE (Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Educa- tion) due primarily to an absence of research and publications in the journals that faculty and administrators read and judge to be important publications of higher education.

2. Lack of experience and training of many learning center directors to manage programs and services.

3. Inadequate publicity and public relations both institutionally and nationally. For example, it is only recently that the journals of CRLA and NCLCA have become a part of Higher Ed Abstracts which reaches faculty and senior administrators. …

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