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Learning Communities - Integrative Learning and Student Success

A learning community is a combination of courses linked together around a common topic or theme with assignments that cut across courses. Students enrolled in the learning community all take the linked courses together – creating a community of learners. Instructors work together to teach students in the learning communities with ongoing collaboration and cross instruction throughout the semester. The faculty “team” approach provides an educational experience that connects learning across subjects. Studies across the nation have shown that learning communities improve learning and student success. While this is reason enough, students also say that they get to know their classmates and instructors better, and they enjoy the classes more than individual “stand-alone” courses. Research also indicates that students are more likely to stay in college when the learning experience is meaningful, engaging, and relevant to their lives. This instructional model was put into place at Delaware Tech in 2009, and its success has resulted in the creation of 72 learning communities collegewide.

Many of the College’s learning communities are developed as part of a program of study or consist of required courses. Some first-year learning communities include a student success course – another proven best practice for success in college. One example of a popular learning community is called “Brewing Up a Business Career.” It is designed for business students who together take Introduction to Business, Critical Reading and Thinking, and a student success course. Students read the book “Brewing Up a Business” by Delaware entrepreneur Sam Calagione which is discussed in all three of their courses from varying perspectives, and tour Dogfish Head Brewery to learn first-hand about the company. Ultimately, students develop their own career plan after researching a wide variety of fields. Additional learning communities that link courses in a specific major with general education courses and/or a student success courses include “Putting the FUNdamentals in English” (reading/ English), “Bookworm and the Brain” (reading/psychology), “So...You Think You Can Teach” (education/English), and “You’ve Been Hacked” (computer information/math), “Communication and the Path to Justice” (criminal justice/ English), and “Policy and Pen” (political science/English). The College also has created learning communities for second-year courses, and courses that are required in a major. Examples include “Bugs and Drugs” (biology/chemistry), “Building Specialist” (energy), and “It’s More Than Black and White” (dental hygiene).

Learning Community: Brewing Up A BusinessLearning Community: Brewing Up A BusinessBy offering this instructional model, Delaware Tech is demonstrating its commitment to student success as evidenced by the commitment to invest in the resources to “do it right.” In fact, instructors from Delaware Tech have attended national training and visited other colleges who have been successful with this initiative. In addition, funding from the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program has contributed to the creation of learning communities and professional development for faculty members. To learn more about all of the learning communities offered this fall, contact a Delaware Tech campus nearest you or visit go.dtcc.edu/learningcommunities.

2013 National Summer Institute on Learning Communities Delegation: Twenty-four Delaware Tech employees participated in the 2013 National Summer Institute on Learning Communities in Olympia, Washington.2013 National Summer Institute on Learning Communities Delegation: Twenty-four Delaware Tech employees participated in the 2013 National Summer Institute on Learning Communities in Olympia, Washington.

The Benefits of Learning Communities

  • Interrelated concepts, assignments and activities engage students with course material.
  • Students connect and make friends through shared experiences and by taking multiple courses together.
  • Students report stronger relationships with instructors.
  • Classes that might seem unrelated are connected through a common theme. This integrative curriculum model supports engaged student learning.
  • Ready-made study groups are formed by classmates for course discussion, homework and studying.
  • Students often feel more involved and connected to the campus, which increases the likelihood that they will stay in college and do well academically.

Pictured Top - “The learning community was interesting because we ran weather simulations on our computer model to determine ways the school could save on energy costs. The work we did is identical to what we could be doing in the real world as a career.” - Jake Biggs, “Building Specialist” learning community

Pictured Middle - Students in the “Brewing Up a Business Career” learning community tour a Delaware business and read a local entrepreneur’s book as part of their coursework.

Pictured Bottom - A Delaware Tech delegation participated in the 2013 National Summer Institute on Learning Communities in Olympia, Washington.