Town & Gown:
Learning Services Celebrates 30 Years of Success
By Dr. William A. Meehan
President, Jacksonville State University
Weekly Column - Town and Gown
The Jacksonville State University Department of Learning
Services is celebrating its 30-year anniversary. Learning Services has
continually assisted students in mastering basic and life skills through
competency-based courses in the Department of Learning Skills, and through
Learning services began offering courses and services in January 1977. During
this time it was known as the Center for Individualized Instruction funded by a
Title III grant from the US Department of Education. The first director of the
Learning Services was Charles Merbitz, Ph.D., BCBA, who is currently chair of
the Behavior Analysis Department at the Chicago School of Professional
Psychology, Chicago, Ill. Dr. Claudia McDade, the current director, has been the
director of the Learning Services for 27 years.
“Over 60,000 students have used Learning Services since 1977,” says Dr.
Learning Skills offers courses in the areas of reading, writing, numeracy,
studying, reasoning, self management and career developments. Courses are
classified “developmental” or “skill building.” While students may be placed in
developmental courses due to their entrance exam scores on the ACT or SAT,
students can choose to schedule a developmental course to strengthen their
skills and to increase their readiness for, and successfulness in, higher
In the Learning Services Department, developmental courses earn institutional
credit, which counts toward a student’s total number of credit hours and grade
point average. Over the past six years, students who started in developmental
quantification Learning Services courses performed just as well in Math 100 and
112 as students who started with these courses.
Skill building Learning Services courses assist students in developing skills
necessary for success in education and life. They can assist students in
developing critical thinking, advanced reading, more effective study skills,
understanding of university policies and procedures, and personal
responsibility. Successful completion of these Learning Skills courses results
in regular academic credit.
The Department of Learning Skills was certified by the National Association
for Developmental Education in March 2007. This certification is at the
distinguished or highest level; only five other programs in America have reached
this distinction. Learning Services is the first and only certified program by
the National Association for Developmental Education in the state of Alabama.
According to Dr. McDade, “Learning Services relies on student staff, composed
of academically successful students who provide learning assistance and coaching
in course offerings. The department produces credit hours at significantly less
cost than other academic departments.”
Looking back at how the program has progressed through the years, Dr. McDade
states, “The main difference that has taken place since 1980 is the
restructuring of the department.” The department is more organized now than it
was when she first became director.
It is important to stress the value of the program to the students who enroll
in these developmental or skill building courses. “Many students have benefited
from the program,” says Dr. McDade, “including the ones who have major
difficulties in learning and comprehension.”
Dr. McDade is proud of the “student tutors who have a lot of patience when it
comes to dealing with students who are in great need of our services.”
Dr. McDade says she has enjoyed serving as the Director of Learning Services
over the years. In her own words, she describes the personal satisfaction she
derives from this service:
“It has been a great ride, and I have enjoyed doing it. It has been an
amazing experience working with people who really care. When students do well,
we are excited for them and for us.”
Anne Muriithi, a graduate assistant in the Office of Public Relations
contributed to this article.
About William A. Meehan
Dr. William A. Meehan is president of Jacksonville
State University. His column, "Town & Gown," appears in The Jacksonville News.
See story at The Jacksonville News's website: www.jaxnews.com
Note: JSU faculty, staff and students may access The
Jacksonville News online through their affiliation with the University.
Those not affiliated with JSU may have to subscribe to receive The
Jacksonville News online. If you already subscribe to The Jacksonville
News, you receive a complimentary online membership. This provides
complete access to all the content and services of the site at no
additional charge. Otherwise there is an online monthly charge for
their online service. Contact The Jacksonville News for information.
for news releases by using the request form at www.jsu.edu/newswire/request.