What are Learning Communities?
Learning communities link two or more courses around an interdisciplinary theme and enroll a common cohort of students in the linked classes. Faculty who teach the linked sections collaborate to integrate assignments and projects, so that students may see how their learning in one class is related to the content in another. This interdisciplinary approach makes learning more meaningful and encourages development of critical thinking skills.
How do Learning Communities enrich the academic experience?
The learning community is distinguished by active learning approaches which engage students in experiential activities. Collaborative projects and group work are a focus of learning communities, and these activities promote a sense of teamwork while providing opportunities for students to apply their learning in new contexts. Through engagement in group activities, a sense of teamwork and mutual purpose is fostered. Therefore, students form strong bonds and feel a sense of belonging to a community of learners who are all committed to a common purpose.
How do Learning Communities help students to become acclimated to college?
Students in learning communities become more committed to supporting one another. “The most impressive thing that has occurred is the bonding between students and their support for one another,” says Dr. Sarah Coleman, who teaches Introduction to Sociology as a learning community faculty member. As true community members, students are no longer concerned only with their individual success, but begin to look out for others. “We have seen students get on their cell phones to call other students to find out why they are not in class. It is really a peer-support system,” according to Lizabeth Doherty, an instructor of a fall learning community class. This view is echoed by Professor Bill Hysell, who also emphasizes the benefits of participation to faculty. He comments, “The learning community promotes a sense of coherence and shared purpose among the students involved. As an instructor, it has given me additional insights into student thinking and studying in classes other than mine as well as strength and weaknesses of teaching techniques.”
Learning communities are in their second year of implementation at MVCC and are being offered for students entering developmental and credit-bearing classes. Thus far, most of the learning communities have been designed for incoming freshmen to ease the transition to college. Instructor David Nackley sums it up well: “Teaching in a learning community has helped me cultivate ideas to become a better instructor and more conscious of the needs of my students. The learning community is successful and will help students to become success in college. The students are experiencing firsthand how to take the knowledge they learn in one setting and use it across curriculums – that’s education, that’s real life learning.”
Interested students should consult an academic advisor in the First Year Experience Center for help enrolling in a Learning Community.