The space is smaller than before but the UVI staff members say the new St. John Academic Center can accommodate up to 10 students at a time. UVI students from St. Thomas and St. Croix, and members of the public, can also visit as space allows.
Photos provided by Judi Shimel.
ST, JOHN — The year long wait for the return of the UVI Academic Center on St. John is over. The space is smaller, sits at the foot of Elaine Sprauve Library, and is powerfully fitted with technology.
First opened at the St. John Marketplace in 2013, the academic center represents UVI’s latest push into distance learning. The first center served up to 25 students. It had an administrator, an information technician, and a librarian. There was a study area, a classroom and a teleconference room.
Students attended classes remotely and interacted with their instructors electronically. The original center was made possible through a grant by the U.S. Dept. of Education.
Now UVI Program Administrator Sharlene Harris says the center has less space and fewer staff but can accommodate up to 10 students at a time.
“Requests were made by the students and the St. John community after the closing of the Marketplace location, hence the alternate location was sorted between the University and the Government of the Virgin Islands,” Harris said.
Renovations were made to the St. John satellite office of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources. Contractors installed carpeting. The upholstered ottomans and a dormitory-style bench were moved in, along with laptop desks.
Three computer stations allow for remote classroom attendance. There is also a mini teleconference room, fitted with a double video flat screen on half of an oval dining table.
University officials also considered the adjacent public library as a convenient research facility, extended reading room and study hall.
“The new location is very feasible for the number of requests made to use the center by St. John students,” Harris said.
Other university and education related programs appeared in the old space as the island realized the former Marketplace health club had turned into a satellite college. With the reopening and relocation, some are expected to reappear as well.
UVI’s Cooperative Extension Service and Small Business Development Center have used the academic center to conduct workshops for the public. The St. John Community Foundation held a summer program for students in a career training program.
And a local yoga class brought a group into the space to limber up. The new space is not as roomy, officials said, and the former yoga instructor moved away.
Since the new center held a soft opening in late November, about five students have settled in. The program director said announcements are now going out to others, letting them know they can resume their off campus studies. Participation is expected to increase by the time the Spring semester begins in February, Harris said.
St. Thomas and St. Croix UVI students and the wider community can also use the facilities as space allows, center staffers said.