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Learning Communities

What are Learning Communities?

At Purdue University, Learning Communities (LCs) are academic programs that allow first-year students from the same major or with similar academic interests to:

  • Take two to three of the same courses together
  • Reside with their classmates on the same residence hall floors or
  • Do both — take the same courses together and live in the same residence hall

Purdue's coordinated Learning Community (LC) effort started in fall 1999. Since then, over 8,330 first-year students have benefited from participating in a Learning Community.

What are the benefits of Learning Communities?

In all cases, benefits of Learning Communities include:

  • Interaction between students and faculty with the importance of academic success stressed
  • Faculty and instructors spending considerable time ensuring that the content associated with the two or three linked courses is connected
  • Faculty and instructors using funds they receive to conduct out-of-class activities that compliment students' in-class learning

How do students get into a Learning Community?

Students can apply to be in a Learning Community via the online application found at http://www.purdue.edu/sats/learning_communities/.

What types of students participate in Learning Communities?

Learning Communities attract a diverse student population. For example, the 2007-08 LCs participants were:
  • 56% female
  • 18% racial minorities
  • 55% Indiana residents
  • 43% non-Indiana, domestic U.S. residents
  • 3% international students

Learning Communities not only attract a diverse group of students to Purdue, they also increase their chances of staying at the University.

What does the research show?

Purdue University's aggregate retention for all cohorts through the 2005-06 academic year shows an 88.14% retention rate for participants and a 84.98% retention rate for non-participants, a difference statistically significant. Students who participate do better in their coursework (as measured by grades), state that they are better satisfied with their overall Purdue experience, and are, overall, more involved with the University community.

References

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Words of Wisdom

  • One of the benefits of a learning community is that students get to know each other faster and at a deeper level when they are seeing each other so often and in different contexts (classes, residence halls, dining halls). This can also create challenges — the class is likely to be lively and talkative (a good kind of challenge to have)!

    It's important for the instructors to always work together collaboratively. Sometimes there's a tendency for one instructor to bulldoze ideas through. If you're the bulldozer, stop and think about how to listen to others' opinions about how the activities should be organized. If you're being bulldozed, speak up, and, if necessary, demand equal input into decisions.

    — Barbara Dixon, Associate Dean for Education, Continuing Lecturer, College of Liberal Arts & Nursing Nexus and Entrepreneurial Learning Communities ENGL 106 Instructor

  • Quickly establish a community by making sure everyone knows everyone else's name in the class and something unique about each of them. I make it a goal of the class for everyone to know each other's name by week three at the latest. I even give name quizzes to make sure it happens.

    Get the group together socially as soon as possible. I usually have the class to my home for dinner several times during the semester but strongly suggest having lunch or dinner together in the dining courts very early in the semester.

    — Susan Aufderheide, Director, Undergraduate Studies Program Explorers Learning Community EDPS 105 Instructor