As military veterans return to school, many are juggling work, family and an introduction/reintroduction to higher education. To help these students make the most of their college careers, some military-friendly colleges and universities have established learning support departments. Peter Ploegman is a learning support specialist at National Louis University, and recently he shared an overview of his work and the importance of providing learning support services for student veterans.
What does a learning support specialist do?
I support all NLU students, and in particular, I work very closely with the University’s student veterans. My office is located in NLU’s library on the sixth floor of the Chicago campus. In the Learning Support department we focus on two key areas: academic accommodations and tutoring. There are four total learning support specialists at NLU, focusing on a range of subjects, including writing, reading, technology, math and science. I often meet with students in the Student Veterans Lounge at NLU, part of NLU’s Veterans Program, and also tutor online.
Tell us about the academic accommodations and tutoring.
Academic accommodations can include student requests, such as needing more time to take an exam or getting a textbook in a different format. Paperwork and direct communication is needed to accommodate these requests, and I handle this process for students, including veteran students. For example, a student would contact me in the Learning Support department if they require accommodations, including a location suitable for a wheelchair and other specific conditions, pursuant to the American Disabilities Act, in order to take a test. The department also proctors tests for students with that accommodation, communicates particular testing needs with faculty, and ensures that students are able to learn and test in the least restrictive environment.
NLU’s tutoring support includes in-person and online academic help for students. NLU has partnered with SmarThinking, which connects students in different parts of the country, many of whom are taking online classes, with tutors who can provide 1:1 assistance on classwork. For example, a student can submit a paper online and receive feedback from a SmarThinking e-tutor. They also have the capability of participating in live tutoring sessions via the Internet and can live-chat with tutors. The e-tutors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Soon, NLU Learning Support will be using Zoom technology to conduct online tutoring sessions with its students, which will include Web conferencing and shared screens.
What new services can students look forward to within the Learning Support department at NLU?
While still a pilot, NLU’s Learning Support department has developed an intensive series of non-credit courses aimed at assisting NLU students and applicants in preparing for the state of Illinois Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP), which is required for admission into the National College of Education. These courses cover the subjects of reading, language arts and math. For more specific information about registration, course content, cost and the course schedule, click here.