They come in looking for answers and an understanding face. They need someone who not only can help with problematic problems but speaks their language and can translate a failing grade into an “A.” And when struggling students walk into the Learning Assistance Center, they know they have come to the right place.
The Learning Assistance Center, located within the Horn Center, is where freshmen can find tutors for that hard-to-understand Chemistry 100 formula, a soon-to-graduate senior can receive supplemental instruction to a tricky required course, and international students can improve their writing and speech skills. It’s a one-stop shop for all learning needs at Long Beach State.
Learning Skills coordinator Jennifer Luarca and associate coordinator Pat Mulleavy aid students with goal setting and time management. They also teach students how to effectively take notes, study for various exams and plan research projects and papers.
“With Learning Skills, we focus on the soft skills set – learning how to study,” Luarca said. “We find a lot of students get to college and don’t know how to study. They just know how to sit quietly in a classroom because that’s what they were told to do in high school.”
If a student is taking a particularly difficult course, they can find help in Supplement Instruction. The classes are one-unit, credit-no credit courses that enable students to gain a better understanding of the material and learn effective study strategies through discussion and quizzes.
SI coordinator Lyndsay Harrison recalled one student who took a biology course and failed the class on her first try. She enrolled in SI the next semester and received an A grade.
“To jump form an ‘F’ to an ‘A’ in one semester says a lot,” Harrison said. “It was how she studied. It’s not that she didn’t get it, she didn’t understand how to study. She would get an ‘A’ studying very minimally in high school, so she really need to adjust and transition. But she didn’t have anyone to show her how to do that.
“Stories like that, when they take it the first time and don’t understand it and then take it the second time and get the ‘A’ is what makes it rewarding …. She went from feeling defeated to becoming a (teacher’s aide) in the course later on and graduating with honors.”
Not everyone’s learning difficulties are that simple. Some Long Beach State students hail from foreign countries and don’t have a clear grasp of academic language needed to graduate from college. That’s where the ESL/Language & Tutoring division comes in. On most days, members of the culturally diverse men’s rugby team are getting help or helping others transcend language barriers.
At ESL/Language & Tutoring, students can improve their speaking, grammar, reading, composition and proofreading skills needed for critical, college-level speech and writing. They can schedule individual appointments or drop by the Conversation Lab, where they can practice their English skills in a nonjudgmental environment.
“A common story that I hear from students who have used our services in ESL is that ‘if it weren’t for you guys, I wouldn’t have passed this class. I wouldn’t have graduated. I would not have gotten this job,’” said Alex Hoang, coordinator of the tutorial and ESL services.
The Learning Center was founded by the late Frank Christ in 1972, who wrote six study skills textbooks and many articles on learning assistance. He created the Western College Reading Association and was involved in on-line course development before his death in 2012.