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2 new Digital Unions open with a price tag of $520K

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Ohio State’s technological resource centers, dubbed “Digital Unions,” celebrated their 10th anniversary on campus with the opening of two new unions that cost more than $520,000.

New locations premiered in Enarson Classroom Building on Sept. 8 and in Denney Hall on Sept. 12, complete with new computers, software such as Microsoft Office and Final Cut Pro X and free technology tutorials to aid in learning, said Office of Distance Education and eLearning spokeswoman Lucy Ramos. 

Prior to the new locations, OSU already had three other Digital Unions in Prior Health Sciences Library and Stillman and Hagerty halls. Those Digital Unions were visited more than 24,000 times from Aug. 2013-14, according to a one-year report.

All five locations provide a distinct learning opportunity for students, Ramos said.

“Finding a meeting space for student organizations can be really hard, and these are hidden gems with technology and one-on-one assistance available that people can take advantage of,” she said. 

All spaces are designed to provide students with the opportunity to work privately or collaborate in groups, and have wheelchair accessible areas or braille keyboards if needed. 

Installing the technology in Denney Hall cost more than $280,000, and the space in Enarson Classroom Building cost more than $240,000, Eric Todd, ODEE director of learning environments, said in an email.

The new Digital Union space in Denney Hall also has additional features that the others don’t. It features three specialized studios — an audio recording studio, a video recording studio and a video-conferencing suite, all free for students and faculty to use, Ramos said.

Trained student staff are also available to help with using computers and software, Ramos said.

Ross Schmittgen, a sixth-year in Korean, has worked with the Digital Union staff for a year and studies exclusively at these spaces.

“The most helpful things for students seems like the computers for general homework, and programs like Adobe Suite and Photoshop that are normally very expensive but we provide for free use,” Schmittgen said.

He said plans to use the new spaces, in addition to the existing ones, when he’s not working to help others.

“I’ll be at them all, depending on where am I am and what I need to do,” Schmittgen said.

Some members of the OSU community have said they like what the new Digital Unions have to offer.

“I appreciate that these spaces give you that personal bubble so you can really focus on what needs to be done without many distractions,” said Sathya Dev, a faculty researcher at the OSU Wexner Medical Center Dorothy M. Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute.

Dev said he spends the majority of his free time at the Prior Hall location because of the convenience of the location and its technology.

Aside from faculty, some students said they find these spaces to be more helpful than the traditional library setting.

“(Compared to libraries), the Digital Union spaces are small, have Mac computers, are air conditioned pretty well and have resources those libraries don’t have,” said Mike Brazier, a third-year in electrical and computer engineering.

Brazier said he has a personal interest in film and music, and is looking forward to using the professional recording programs and resources in the new Denney Hall location.

“It seems really great for people with creative interests, and once I have some free time, I plan to spend an entire day there,” he said.

Victoria Bigelow, a third-year student in Korean and security and intelligence, said she has a similar interest in the creative arts and spends most of her free time at the Hagerty Hall and now Denney Hall locations.

She said she encourages students who typically use libraries to get work done to use the open learning environment of the Digital Union.

“You get free, full access to so many resources like Adobe Suite and professional recording studios and a green screen. It’s all so great to use,” Bigelow said.

The spaces are open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sunday from 2-8 p.m.

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