Living Learning Communities & Librarian Involvement

On Friday, November 30th, Jean Henscheid came to West Texas A&M to do a workshop on Living Learning Communities as a way to engage and interact with students to give them a more positive college experience.

I have seen Residential Learning communities at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, but I was never a part of any of them, so I was excited to make them a part of WT.

3 [major] types of learning communities:

1. Student cohorts- here you will find groups of students who have at least 2 classes together and they might live together, too.

  • Pros: Faculty have no requirements, Max flexibility for student, higher GPA, retention, etc., Low cost, fairly easy to start
  • Cons: Hyper-bonding between students, interdisciplinary relationships do not naturally occur, non-Learning Community (LC) students feel left out, depts ask for seats back, quick-fix; not guaranteed to transform the institution

2. Linked Course/Course Clusters- This is a LC where the whole class is the cohort. This is a good model for “pre” students where there are natural cohorts. This is not for low performing, sports teams, or Greek students.

  • Pros: interdisciplinary teaching/learning, transcends 50-minute class, Higher GPA, retention, etc., builds teaching communities, and has students bonding on academic themes.
  • Cons: Faculty time concerns, small classes (i.e. low #of seats), out of class activity cost, students might feel schedule inflexibility, depts may ask for more seats, and it’s frankly a “weird” way of teaching. It’s more of a social/flipped classroom model (which could lead to resistance from some faculty).

3. Coordinated Studies- This is the 1 course, 4 faculty member model

  • Pros: Interdisciplinary teaching & deep learning, deeply transcend 50-min class constraints, academic theme, model discourse, transform experience & student learning
  • Cons: More intense Post Learning Community Syndrome (PLCS), and transfer translation confusion

The rest of the session was dedicated to brainstorming some already well-working communities and expand on it. Our group came together to discuss The Alamo & Zombies (a potential class) where we mixed in History, Biology, Victorian SciFi (Steam-punk), and information literacy into 1 class. It was no-holds-barred brainstorming and it was refreshing.

How are your institutions using living learning communities? Why does your institution need learning communities? Are they all or mostly residential? Why?

I’m excited to explore how the library can become integrated with the faculty to co-teach and provide deeper learning and a more relevant experience to our students.



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