The Keck Interactive Learning Center (ILC), formerly an underused language lab, has undergone renovations for the Fall 2016 and is now being advertised as a central academic asset for both international students and students studying foreign languages. Blair Orfall, the ILC Coordinator, talked about the reasoning behind the renovations.
“Before the renovation, the ILC was an underused 1990s computer lab with desktop computers lining the perimeter of the room and two enormous tables in the middle of the room,” Orfall said. “The design was out of date … and the furniture did not allow for flexibility in teaching or other uses of the space. Our design committee wanted the ILC to serve multiple functions.”
Professor Molly Robinson Kelly, the Chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature had been planning on renovations for years, but only received a grant last year.
“It was originally designed as a language lab, which was an essential feature of any college-level language program: language labs offered things like cassette tape recordings for students of language to listen to, the ability to record and listen to themselves speaking in order to practice correct pronunciation, as well as authentic video and audio materials,” Kelly said. “With the changes brought to video and audio by the internet, the old-style language labs became increasingly obsolete.”
The physical renovations included repainting, new comfortable and movable furniture, tea and coffee makers, and the addition of laptops and whiteboards.
“We decided to use the ILC as a centralized location for many of the great co-curricular and extracurricular activities our department offers for its language courses: language clubs, conversation partners, tutoring, cultural and linguistic exchange of all kinds,” Kelly said.
Before the renovations, ILC was mainly used by the Academic English Studies (AES) department.
“AES used it extensively for a computer lab for instructors to work with classes while they worked on assignments,” Laura Shier, Director of AES, said. “AES instructors and classes can still use the space in this way now, but also provides a space for tutoring and language conversation practice, both for FL [Foreign Language] and AES students.”
Shier and Kelly both mentioned the tutoring, which is another change to ILC. Before, Foreign Language Assistants (LAs) worked out of the offices of their specific language department, but now they all hold office hours in ILC.
“By bringing the LAs together, we hope to both provide an environment where students have more interaction with LAs and where LAs can share their experiences with each other,” Orfall said. “The ILC also provides walk-in language tutoring for all languages, a new service designed to provide students with convenient and casual language assistance.”
“A high percentage of LC students take language classes while on campus, and our department offers lots of great opportunities outside of class for students to really use their language skills in authentic ways,” Kelly said. “Also, we have a significant number of international students on campus taking courses and developing their English-language skills through the AES department, and the ILC has become the center for their tutoring and conversation partner activities as well.”
Shier hopes the ILC will continue to become more widely used in the future.
“I think it will foster support of real second-language use, a space identified for tutors and TAs to help students; it’s a visible space and the design invites students to come and hang out,” Shier said. “I hope that it encourages more interaction between AES students and LC students in FL as a shared space.”