What are learning communities?

A learning community is when a group of students take two or more courses together. The courses may be based on a theme or simply core classes required by the college. The goal of a learning community is to provide students with increased opportunities to form relationships with other students and interact with faculty.

Learning communities are especially appealing in large settings where students would normally attend large classes and are not likely to have the same students in each class. Some learning communities have a residential aspect where students all live in the same dorm.

Learning communities come in a variety of forms. Some are combined with First Year Experiences for freshman. Others are based on majors, honors programs, or special interest such as outdoor experiences or community service. Not all learning communities require students taking the same classes or require them to have a shared residence. Because of space limitations, students may be required to apply to learning communities.

Appalachian State has residential learning communities that include Active Living, art Haus, Brain Matters, Business Exploration, and Living Green. Visit Ohio University to see an example of learning communities based on majors.

For more information visit (the links at these sites aren’t all up to date):

There is little research that actually documents the benefits of Learning Communities. However, I do find that the possible disadvantages of learning communities to be rather weak.

One argument is that learning communities will not make up for students poorly prepared for college work. I can see how some administrations might use this as a “solution” for poorly prepared students. But I would imagine that there would be other signs warning students off of such schools.

Another argument is that students with limited attention spans might not be able to handle the extended interaction that occurs within learning communities. I think this falls under the student not being prepared for college to begin with category.

I would expect the quality of learning communities to vary from college to college as well as within the colleges themselves. If students are interested in Learning Communities, it would be a good idea for them to talk to students who are currently in the programs they are interested in.

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