By Troy Moon
Pensacola State College
They look a little like telephone booths. (Consult an elderly person or encyclopedia if you’re not sure what a phone booth is.) But instead, they’re portable study pods – places of individual academic refuge where students can study alone and use personal computers for online classes.
There are 10 study pods across Pensacola State College campuses and centers. The study pods are part of a $2.2 million U.S. Department of Education Title III Strengthening Institution grant that enhances the existing Pirate Path to Success initiative.
The five-year grant was awarded in 2019 to increase retention and degree completion for first-generation college students and low-income students. The grant has provided much more than the study pods, including:
- Charging stations (8)
- Video conference rooms (7)
- Virtual tutoring stations (8)
- aPlus+ attendance and reporting software for the Math and Writing Tutoring Labs
- Laptops for five Title III employees
- Staff Professional Development series: Student Services Advisor Bootcamp, Mental Health First Aid series, two professional speakers and behavioral health and academic advising conference support
- Annual membership with Academic Impressions, a professional development and skills-based, higher-education training service offering 1,900 resources including online, face-to-face and written content
- Upgrade to existing online orientation
- Financial Literacy programming supplies for 12 scheduled campuses to date
- Tutoring labs books and supplies
- Two major mailouts for workforce programs ─ JobX and Parker Dewey internships as well as Behavioral Health programs
- Salary and benefits for Title III employees and tutors
- School Datebook Student Planners for three years – 2,000 copies each year
- Behavioral Health Counseling services and staff salaries/benefits for two counselors
Also, the grant allowed the College to hire four discipline specific advisers – one each for Business and Baccalaureate programs, STEM programs, Health programs and Workforce programs.
“Not only are the Title III advisers embedded within defined departments, they also are assigned a cohort of first-time-in-college students,’’ said Martha Vignes, PSC Title III: Pirate PATH to Success Activities Director. “Advisers follow these students and become familiar with their life circumstances: grades, struggles and successes. They assist students in discovering how to reach individual goals.”
Though the study pods have only been recently installed, they have proven to be popular with students. The pods are not completely soundproof but do offer isolation. Each pod has a small desk, a whiteboard, markers, eraser, electrical outlets and lighting control.
“Aren’t those great?’’ Vignes asked as she looked over the five study pods located on the second floor of the Chadbourne Library. “The neat thing is they’re really helpful to students who don’t always have access to bandwidth or Wi-Fi. This will give them a place to study or to contact advisers who may be located on another campus.”
Lisamarie Bartusik, Library Services Department Head, said the study pods have proved popular with students.
“We barely had them set up when I had a student ask to use one,’’ she said, adding during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many students would use the library for online classes.
“They might have a face-to-face class in the morning, then have an online class before another face-to-face class later,’’ she said. “We were putting students in corners who had online classes. We ran out of corners.”