Double your experience with learning communities

April 11, 2012


by Gini Swartz

As long as you’re taking two courses, why not make it easier by taking them together?

Learning Community (LNCO) courses were introduced for students into the MCC-Maple Woods curricula in the 1990s, but became a requirement for the A.A. degree 10 years ago. According to the college’s explanation in the course guide, “LNCO courses are taught within a community to help focus your education, build motivation and give added meaning to a student’s college experience. These courses allow students to interact with a group of peers, while having multiple professors teach the course(s). The LNCO courses include lecture, small group work and reading/writing assignments.”

“The courses are connected by a common LNCO theme, which is used to integrate the content and learning outcomes of the two disciplines.  While we sometimes try to create LNCOs that combine courses needed for specific degree programs, often it is two faculty who want to teach together and share some common interests that drives the creation of the specific LNCO,” says William Young, history professor at Maple Woods and chair of the Social Sciences/Business Division.

According to Eric Sullivan, English instructor at MCC-Longview, there is no set criteria for these courses. He explains that there are benefits being the instructor of these courses as well. “The pairing allows me to see how other instructors teach, thereby granting me an opportunity to refine my own practices. Tying two classes together pushes instructors to exercise some creativity in their assessments and reinvigorate their instruction,” Sullivan said.

Current LNCO and previous LNCO courses include English and Speech, History and Music, Biology and History, Math and Physics, and the list goes on. Students who have ideas about linking courses at Maple Woods are invited to offer their suggestions to Young.

The overall goal of the LNCO courses, according to Sullivan, is for students to learn the content in a more meaningful and lasting way. Terri Lowry, also an English instructor at Longview Community College, explains the linking of two courses together allows students the real application of the taught concepts. Along with educational benefits of the courses being taught together, Lowry says, “I want (students) to leave the course with a circle of friends.”

LNCO students also see the benefits of the LNCO courses being taught together.

“I would say having multiple professors is a benefit. If one is harder to understand than another, you can speak with one of your other professors get some clarification,” says Rachelle Adams, a sophomore pursuing an A.A.S. in Business Management in the MCC system.

“It is documented both nationally and at MCC, that students in learning communities stay in school longer and are more successful than their counterparts in stand-alone courses. Students learn how disciplines and critical thinking are inter-related…which also applies beyond the classroom to every day life,” Young said.

Bridget Gold, mathematics instructor at Longview, said that research from the Washington Center indicates that, “learning communities have been shown to increase student retention and academic achievement, increase student involvement and motivation, improve students’ time to degree completion, and enhance student intellectual development.”

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