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Mountain State University to unveil 'hybrid study' learning center

College officials hope it will spur future growth

November 17, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com
  • Anthony Polk, business manager and assistant CFO for Mountain State University's branch campus in Martinsburg, W.Va., talks about the school's future Hybrid Study Learning Center to open in Martinsburg Mall next year.
By Matthew Umstead, Staff Writer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Mountain State University plans to open a 10,000-square-foot "hybrid study" learning center in Martinsburg Mall in time for the spring semester, school officials said Thursday.

The learning center represents an expansion of MSU's footprint in the shopping center at 800 Foxcroft Ave., which it purchased in April 2010. The school already has built an administrative office-testing center complex there.

With current enrollment of about 400 students at the Martinsburg campus, college officials hope the new learning center, which combines elements of a traditional classroom environment with technology-enhanced instruction, such as DVD lectures, films on demand and online video clips, will help spur future growth.

The learning center will be staffed by facilitators, who will be available to assist students who might take individual courses or complete degree programs through self-paced eight-week and 16-week courses.

College officials said Thursday that the center is particularly suitable for nontraditional adult students who need a more flexible schedule.

An open house will be held today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at MSU's administrative office in the mall to show off the hybrid study center.

MSU's pilot location for the learning center is the university's Martinsburg campus, campus Executive Director David Shahan said Thursday during a tour of the facility.

Founded in 1933 in Beckley, W.Va., MSU also has branch campuses in Center Township, Pa., Mooresville, N.C., and Orlando, Fla.

This fall, about 90 students enrolled for the first semester of the hybrid study option, which was offered at MSU's facility that was launched in August at the private institution's University Center building at 214 Viking Way.

The new facility at the mall will be substantially larger and will have enough space for as many as 80 computer stations, according to Anthony Polk, the branch campus' business manager and assistant chief financial officer.

Currently, the most popular programs at MSU's Martinsburg campus are leadership, forensic, liberal studies and nursing, but the hybrid study initiative also is significant for the college, officials said.

Polk confirmed that the interior renovations to convert the former Rex electronics store cost about $300,000, but said MSU is spending substantially more than that to outfit the learning center with computers and furnishings to open the doors in January.

While the Martinsburg campus of MSU might not take on the appearance of a traditional college setting, Polk said the school's long-range plan is to have a "comprehensive" campus.

MSU opened its Martinsburg campus in 1999 in the former Tanger outlets building and then purchased the mall for $11 million, but with no intent of "killing" the retail component of the shopping center.

"It's a careful mix that you have make there," Polk said. "But I think the two can complement each other."

"We see it as a good mix over time. It's still a process. It's still developing."

MSU purchased the retail center after it went into receivership of Jones Lang LaSalle Inc., which assumed control after the previous owner defaulted on debt payments in the fall of 2008.

The mall's general manager said earlier this month that mall officials were in active negotiations with prospective tenants to replace Sears and to take over an outparcel of the 79-acre property along Interstate 81.

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