Learning Center Coordinator Tammy Spevak works with a student in the center.

Learning center provides academic support to students

The Learning Center and Student Disability Resources at Penn State Hazleton can help make a college student’s experience more straightforward and education more accessible.

Penn State Hazleton is committed to helping all students succeed, including students who may need a bit of extra support.

The Learning Center and Student Disability Resources at Penn State Hazleton can help make a college student’s experience more straightforward and education more accessible. The center is under the direction of Tammy Spevak, Learning Center coordinator and Student Disability Resources coordinator, and is located on the upper level of the Charles T. Butler Teaching and Learning Resource Center.

According to U.S. Department of Education statistics, one in eleven first-year college students report having a disability when they enroll in college.                                              

The learning center provides academic support in a variety of formats and schedules for those who need it. Student Disability Resources, housed in the center, is equipped to serve students on a broad spectrum of disabilities, including physical, psychological or learning. Even temporary services are available, perhaps for students who have broken a bone or had surgery. All services are available to students at no charge.

Chancellor Gary Lawler said, “Our goal is to help our students be the best students and adults they can be, and we strive to do all we can to accommodate students who learn differently. Through the resources offered at the Learning Center, we are supporting all types of student learners.”

Spevak previously worked as an academic adviser at Penn State Hazleton, and her advising experience lends itself to her work now assisting students with different abilities.

“I saw this as a new and exciting way for me to help our students while learning some new skills myself,” she said. “This is still advising, but working with students in a different way.”

Director of Academic Affairs Elizabeth Wright said, “We are talking a great deal at this campus currently about what we can do to help students be academically successful in their coursework. Tammy Spevak is an integral part of the process, in part because she coordinates tutoring and disability resource services. At the same time, her background in academic advising has uniquely poised her to offer workshops and one-on-one assistance to students seeking to create personalized learning plans that will help them to be academically successful.”

Support available at the learning center includes assistance with developing study skills such as time management, note taking and test taking; private study areas; professional tutoring; and a collaborative technology room. It’s also a place where students help one another: peer tutoring is available through the learning center. Students can receive help through individual tutoring or small group tutoring in all subjects or professional tutoring in writing and math. One room at the center is specifically designated for tutoring and group work.

Students who are doing well academically but would still like to improve their grades are also invited to use the center.

Resources for students with disabilities include assistive technologies; testing accommodations; reasonable academic adjustments; use of auxiliary aids; access to alternative format texts; note takers; a testing facility for students who need a distraction-reduced setting for taking tests; and assistance with applying for designated scholarships.  

One of the assistive technologies is a smart pen that helps with note taking by using a recording device and special paper. The pen records the audio of a lecture being given in class as a student takes notes. The notes are synchronized to the recording, allowing the student to choose what part of the lecture to replay simply by pressing on a corresponding area of notes.

“Not everybody learns and studies the same way. None of these services change the rigor of a Penn State course but rather put the emphasis on mastering the subject and material. We are just giving students an extended set of tools to get to the same place,” Spevak said.

The center has a welcoming, student-friendly feel, with large windows that brighten the open space at the center of the area. Spevak is working with a Penn State Teaching & Learning with Technology team to develop comfortable group seating arrangements and design a space where students can sit together and talk, study or work on class assignments.

Spevak said the center functions as a place for students to make connections with others.

“I want the students to know they’re not alone and nobody is going to look down on them,” she said.

She commended students with challenges who decide to attend college and come to the Learning Center, saying, “It can be a hard thing to ask for help and admit you aren’t doing well in a class. I think the fact they are willing to come to college knowing they have difficulties in certain areas is awesome. This is a safe place for them to come ask for help and receive it.”

Students need to receive documentation from a medical professional to receive disability accommodations, and Spevak can explain the process. Students interested in receiving tutoring must register; applications are available in the learning center. Students who want to work as tutors can also apply there.

All of the Learning Center’s resources are available free of charge to those who need them. The learning center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. To learn more about using the center, stop by or call 570-450-3017.