This week, I had the pleasure to take a tour of the new Student Commons in Sidney Smith Hall (100 St. George St). For those of us who haven’t gotten a chance to see it yet (myself included), all I had heard was that it was worth checking out. So, I headed on over there, with the help of Student Success Programs Officer of Accessibility & Accommodation, Tanya Hyland. Below is a review/infoblock on the new commons, and why it could become your next study spot.
The Sidney Smith Student Commons is an informal learning space designed to assist students in working individually, or in groups, with access to technological and social supports and resources. The space was specifically made to improve student wellbeing, productivity and focus.
A quick tour of the space shows the commons divided in to four sections, decorated with strategically placed cushions and informal seating, as well as the classic desks. The walls on all sides are glass-covered whiteboards, easy to write, plan, and project on. Removable outlet stands surround the seating areas for easy charging. The space was created for both individual and group study, with bookable sections and sliding whiteboard walls that can click in to place for added privacy. Tanya also mentioned to me that a fourth-year class was actually studying the space and collected surveys from students using it to find out what works and what needs to be changed. However, the commons offers more than beautiful wood paneling and tons of natural light.
The commons is an extremely resourceful area, as it features a drop-in corner for various professors and advisors to be available for student questions or comments. This provides students immediate counselling and advice from professionals such as the Dean of Arts and Science, financial aid advisors, and learning strategists.
The Sidney Smith Student Commons was created alongside it’s online counterpart: https://sidneysmithcommons.artsci.utoronto.ca. The online SCC was inspired by the discussions between students and staff at the Office of the Registrar. The most frequent themes were around students finding academic resources and information inaccessible. The online SCC was developed to be a site where students can access information about programs happening in the SCC, information on resources at the University of Toronto, how students can reserve a space and various tools to help students achieve academic success. What sets the SCC site apart is that it’s resources and help topics are developed for students, by students, and are easily accessible and understandable to anyone with a disability.
The importance of accessibility cannot be understated in a space like the Student Commons, as it should be able to be enjoyed and used by all students, regardless of disability. The Commons is complete with washrooms, drinking fountains, and accessible entrances. It’s a wonderful area to study in for those of us who like lots of natural light and soothing aesthetics. What sold the place for me was the central location, which is close to all my classes, and personally, the effort that was put in to the space to make it appealing to all students. It was designed with comfort in mind, and I really feel like my productivity has improved every time I use this space.
I’ve included a video below of a preview of the Student Commons. Let me know if you check it out and what you think about it. Make the most of November, U of T!