USC Kortschak Center For Learning and Creativity

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The mission of the USC Kortschak Center for Learning and Creativity (USC KCLC) is to provide enhanced academic support services at the University of Southern California. USC KCLC does this by providing individual learning strategy sessions, and assistive technology for students with an identified learning disorder (LD), dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other learning differences.

The Center incorporates a multidisciplinary approach to assisting students’ learning and support strategies. This approach includes access to professionals in psychology, occupational therapy, educational psychology, and neuropsychology within the university. In addition, students have access to learning specialists and specialized content area tutors.

These partnerships and collaborations make accommodating students with learning differences more effective by building on a student’s strengths in their own learning. Therefore, the utilization of a strength-based focus and multidisciplinary approach, the understanding of individual learning differences, and issues associated with access to broader learning opportunities, are expanded for students.

The Center is also a field site for graduate students, attracting the best and brightest disability scholars in the nation. Thereby, the USC Kortschak Center for Learning and Creativity is a new model for a world-class center for services, programs, research and support in higher education as it strives to address the learning needs of the university’s students.

Strategic Goals (2013-2016)

Advocacy for USC students with learning differences

The Center should work as a campus advocate to improve the academic experience of all USC students with learning differences.

The following are specific aims:

1. Partner with DSP to create an online process to communicate disability accommodations to faculty. Eliminate paper notices, which sometimes compromise student privacy.

2. Create a standardized intake process for students who seek assistance from the KCLC and other USC academic support services. Identify students who need:

  • Testing for undiagnosed learning disabilities
  • Assistive technology support
  • Mentoring and coaching in time management and learning strategies
  • Academic tutoring services, including Supplemental Instruction, Writing Center, Language Center, Math Center and Viterbi Academic Resource Center (VARC)
  • Emotional or psychological counseling

3. Develop a proprietary short-form test for learning differences that can be administered specifically to undiagnosed students seeking KCLC assistance. The short-form test, when validated, may be a model for practice at other universities.

Mentoring and Coaching

The Center should explore innovative approaches to extend the reach of its successful mentoring and coaching activities. These approaches include the following:

  • Develop a set of short video (4-6 minute) segments that communicate key learning strategies. One video on time management is already available on the KCLC website.
  • Experiment with small-group coaching sessions to evaluate their efficacy.
  • Compile an annual report with a July 1 target date that summarizes outcomes for KCLC students. Data may include term-by-term gpa, graduation date (expected and actual) and job or higher degree status. Postgraduate achievements by KCLC alumni will be of particular interest to current students.

Learning Technology Support

The Center has not yet achieved its potential to evaluate and pilot advanced learning technologies. It should emphasize the role of technology in creative scholarship, rather than in testing accommodations.

  • Transfer the responsibility for day-to-day accommodations (e.g., scanning of textbooks and creation of large-print exams) to DSP. The evaluation of new learning tools, including both devices and software, should become the responsibility of senior KCLC staff members with training in learning methodologies and content.
  • Explore partnerships with campus technology centers (e.g.,   the Center for Scholarly Technology, the Annenberg Innovation Lab, and the Viterbi Student Innovation Institute) that would advance the Center’s mission. In particular KCLC staff should consult on a regular basis with experts in CST to ensure information on available technology remains up-to-date.
  • Collaborate with Student-Athlete Academic Services to allow the use of assistive devices and software by both athletes and non-athletes.
  • Expand the KCLC webpage to include an annotated list of learning technology resources. The list should include reading tools currently available on campus (e.g., Kurzweil 3000 and What You Need Now (WYNN)). The list should be expanded to include applications created for laptops and mobile devices. Any application should be evaluated in advance, and comments or ratings should be included when appropriate.

Research

In order to advance learning approaches at other universities, the Center should continue to communicate its practices and findings through research articles, doctoral theses and other publication routes. Specific goals include the following:

  • Create an online pdf archive of research studies (doctoral theses and articles) produced by KCLC staff and faculty affiliates on campus.
  • Concentrate on research projects that will enhance the delivery of services to KCLC students and that may have broader applicability.
  • Maintain contacts with KCLC alumni, both staff and student users, and where appropriate, highlight their ongoing research and scholarship.

Assessment of Success

The goals outlined above take into account the Center’s evolution during its first three years. They are intended to build on successes and to address areas in which performance can be improved. The Director should prepare a short summary of progress on these goals for each Advisory Board Meeting, and they should guide the preparation of annual budgets.