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Institutional Support

The more specific the purposes of starting a learning community program, the better the chances for implementing a program that fits well with the campus, the better the chances for assessment, and the better the chances the work can be sustained.
Jodi Levine Laufgraben and Nancy S. Shapiro

The overarching conception of learning communities done well is that they are an intervention strategy for student success and quality education. Consequently, learning community program goals are necessarily tied to wider institutional goals.

Wherever they are located in the curriculum, whoever the students served—learning communities have three components: a strategically defined cohort of students, strong relationships between academic and student affairs, and explicit opportunities to practice integrative and interdisciplinary learning.

Effective learning community programs thrive when they are aligned with an institution's mission and goals and receive institutional support.

Institutional support takes several forms:

  • A broad base of support across divisions, including key administrators, that promotes collaboration and grassroots leadership
  • Ongoing faculty development and professional learning
  • Regular assessment at both the classroom and the program level using quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods

These institutional supports are not unique to learning communities—any sustainable intervention strategy for student engagement and success needs them. On many campuses, the experience of designing and strengthening learning community programs has created opportunities to grow these institutional capacities, as well as the learning community programs themselves.