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Learning Communities Course Cluster Characteristics

Course clusters should include:

  • Interdisciplinary learning experiences/curriculum cohesion (where and when feasible)
  • Some courses that do not exceed 30 students per section (clusters can include large lecture course sections, as long as the 30 students attend the same section of that course.)
  • Student involvement through co-curricular activities and interaction outside of the classroom setting (instructor-led field trips, meals, etc.)

A curriculum-linked service learning component is also strongly encouraged.

Instructor Expectations Associated with Course Clusters

Learning Community Instructor Team Plan: Instructors will work with each other to complete the Learning Community Instructor Team Plan, in which they will discuss their goals and expected learning outcomes for their learning community, explore their opportunities and detail their plans for curricular cohesion, and record ideas for expected learning community events and activities (both course content connected and purely social). Please note that at least one specific in-class occurrence of clear curricular cohesion is required, and there should be several out-of-class events/activities planned and executed throughout the semester.  Completed Learning Community Instructor Team Plans must be submitted to the Residential Academic Initiatives office shortly after the Fall Workshop (a due date will be identified); the completed Learning Community Instructor Team Plan must be on file in the Learning Community office before any activities/events will be approved or funds disbursed.

Curriculum Cohesion: Instructors will work with each other to coordinate syllabi and, in the process, allow learning to be reinforced across the courses involved in the learning community.  An example of learning community curriculum cohesion that enhances students’ learning is a writing assignment in an ENGL 106 course that addresses topics that are germane to what is being taught in the course or courses with which the ENGL 106 is connected.  Conversely, a writing assignment that connects with progress in ENGL 106 (argumentation or persuasion, etc.) could be created in the associated class to demonstrate that writing skills are vital in all fields.  Another (and preferred) example is an integrated assignment; in this case, instructors develop a singular assignment that is completed in common for both courses.  The assignment counts for a grade in each course, and that grade is based on criteria set by both instructors.  This type of curricular cohesion can be a tremendous exercise in interdisciplinary investigation.  Other types of curriculum cohesion should be explored and included; all types of curriculum cohesion will be recorded on the Learning Community Instructor Team Plan submitted to the Residential Academic Initiatives office shortly after the fall workshop (see below). Please note that at least one specific occurrence of clear curriculum cohesion is required.

Structured Out-of-Class Activities: As a defining part of the Learning Community experience, instructors are expected to plan, initiate and attend co-curricular and social activities for their students.  Some of these activities must relate to the academic content of the courses and/or reinforce the theme of the Learning Community.  Some of the activities are encouraged to be purely social, especially early on in the semester.  There should be several events/activities of both types planned during the semester.  Instructors are expected to submit event request forms in a timely fashion (typically at least two weeks) prior to the event and are also expected to submit participant sign-in sheets in a timely fashion directly after the planned event. Encouraged event categories include academic, social, cultural, campus resource, service, and myStrengths.

Residential Community Connection: For Learning Communities with residential components (optional or required), Instructors will work with Residential Life professional and student staff to strengthen the living and learning experience.  This partnership allows Residential Life staff to further promote Learning Community themes and activities and integrate them into the living environment in addition to informing Instructors of successes and challenges their students may be experiencing.   

Workshop and Event Participation: To help facilitate the development of the instructors and the curricula involved with the sponsored course clusters, instructors involved in the effort are expected to attend the fall training workshop (typically the Thursday prior to the start of the fall semester) and an appreciation luncheon in the spring. 

Meetings: Instructors are expected to conduct monthly meetings with their colleagues in the Learning Community, as well as Residential Life professional and student staff (if applicable).  The instructors may meet more often if desired.  These are excellent opportunities to review, amend, enhance and execute the submitted community plan, as well as to facilitate a cohesive classroom, co-curricular, and residential educational experience.

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