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High Impact Practices (HIPs)

Learning Communities

Learning communities have been a part of higher education for many decades, and there are many models. They typically involve a cohort of students who share learning experience around a common theme. Common characteristics include: - Small groups of students and faculty - Meaningful interaction and application of learning - Students establish social support networks At Bristol Community College, Learning Communities are two or more linked courses and there are at least two ways to link them.

1. Interdisciplinary LC – This is a combination of two courses from different disciplines, such as ENG 101 College Writing and PSY 101 General Psychology. Faculty link the courses through common readings or assignments. For example, students read a novel in ENG 101 and write a paper in PSY 101 applying psychological theories to the characters.

2. Intradisciplinary LC – This is a combination of two courses from the same discipline, such as a remedial course and the college level counterpart (e.g. ENG 092 and ENG 101).

The level of integration varies. If courses are in person, they can be scheduled back to back. Instructors can also choose to team teach some or all of the lessons. Faculty are also permitted to create a shared syllabus. None of this is required, however.

The research on learning communities shows evidence of a variety of benefits. Students tend to have much deeper learning, and they gain a sense of belonging, and social integration. In a study of over 200 first year students, Rocconi (2011) found that, compared to non-LC counterparts, students in the LCs exhibited greater engagement which was associated with better persistence and retention.

Since the intent is to foster a community, it should come as no surprise that the most effective LCs are in person. It’s also important to have courses which pair well and that are likely to fill. LCs sometimes do not fill up and must be cancelled due to low enrollment. The best LC pairings are with high-enrollment courses with multiple sections available each semester, such as ENG 101, PSY 101, COM 104, HST 111, etc. For more information on how to start a Learning Community, please contact Tim Hathaway, Academic Coordinator,


Rocconi, L. M. (2011). The impact of learning communities on first year students’ growth and development in college. Research

in Higher Education, 52(2), 178–193