communities to expand to two more colleges
May 8, 2009
After two successful pilot studies, the university is dramatically expanding its learning communities program, part of an ongoing effort to recruit and retain undergraduate students.
Learning communities are groups of 30-40 first-year students who take a predetermined set of three courses together and also meet weekly for study, information and mentoring. According to Jim Greer, director of the University Learning Centre, the program was established in 2007 in the College of Arts and Science with the goal of helping students “build a sense of academic community and to help them refine their academic goals. At the same time, I also view it as an enrichment initiative.”
The model, which is in use at many universities, has proven itself and the program recently received about $827,000 from the Academic Priorities Fund to be used over the next three years to expand into the Colleges of Kinesiology and Agriculture and Bioresources. Greer said about 200 students participated in learning communities in 2008/09 “and we’re hoping for 400 in 2009/10, then to double that number in each of the following two years.”
Involvement in learning communities is currently voluntary but Greer said by the end of this planning cycle, it is expected that kinesiology and agriculture and bioresource first-year students will automatically be enrolled in the program.
The expansion of the program also creates opportunities for faculty members to connect across disciplines as they teach the various cohorts of students, he said. “I think this can be an interesting experience for instructors too.”