Page address: http://www.mnsu.edu/newstudent/communities/faculty/faq.html

What exactly are learning communities?

The Learning Communities Program is aimed at fostering a successful transition to college by providing academic and social support, as well as encouraging students to become involved in various activities and opportunities offered on campus. Learning communities place small groups of students (no more than 25) into cohorts that are enrolled into some common courses together. The students live on the same residence hall floor or area (with the exception of the sophomore communities). Each learning community has a Coordinator (LCC) who is responsible for planning group activities and providing academic and social support to the students.

What is the purpose of learning communities?

The Learning Communities Program is intended to promote a variety of activities commonly associated with successful educational experiences:

  • Improved student academic achievement
  • Increased student retention rates
  • Greater student-to-student interaction and strong social support networks
  • Increased faculty-student interaction
  • Established academic support networks
  • Ease of transition to college
  • Higher levels of satisfaction with college experience

What is my role as an instructor of a learning community course?

Your level of involvement is flexible and depends on your own personal preferences. We highly value your time and energy, yet also understand the many professional and personal time commitments you already have. Many faculty choose to do some or all of the following:

  • Communicate with the Office of New Student and Family Programs
    • The Assistant Director for Academic Initiatives, Kate Hansen, coordinates the Learning Communities Program. The academic success of the students in learning communities is a top priority. If an individual student is struggling in your class or is having other difficulties and you are concerned, it is within FERPA guidelines to disclose this. By referring a student to the New Student and Family Programs office, our staff can help get the student connected with tutoring options, counseling services, or other resources on campus. Please contact us with questions about your role in the program, upcoming events or anything relating to the learning communities or first-year students in general.
  • Attend Learning Community Events (see Event Dates)
    • Learning Community Coordinators (LCCs) may ask you to attend social events, academic support activities, and/or faculty-student dinners. Please participate to the level you are comfortable with and as your schedule permits.
  • Participate in Study Groups
    • Learning community students need not be granted any advantage over traditional students when it comes to faculty assistance. If you are helping with a study group, treat the students there as you would treat a student who has come to your office for help. By assisting in group-oriented study sessions, you will be encouraging students to connect with faculty throughout their academic development.
  • Assist Learning Community Coordinators in Planning Events
    • Your LCC may contact you for ideas on what types of activities to plan in order to help support Learning Community students' academic success. Please share your thoughts and ideas to improve the effectiveness of the program. One event in particular is the Make-A-Difference Project, where learning community students are expected to get involved in a service project on our campus or in our community. By relating such events to majors and course content, students are able to bridge various areas of their personal development: including civic engagement, volunteerism, and academic performance.
  • Communicate With Your Learning Community Coordinator
    • If you begin to notice that your learning community students are struggling in your course, let your LCC know. Of course, this must be kept within the FERPA guidelines, so this is best used if you're seeing a trend with a number of learning community students in your class. If you have concerns directed toward an individual learning community student, call the Office of New Student and Family Programs.
  • Respond to LCC Emails and Calls
    • Even if your answer to the LCC's question is "no" or "I don't know", please take the time to respond. They would rather hear that you cannot help them with their request than hear no answer at all.
  • Get To Know Students
    • One of the major goals of the Learning Communities Program is to encourage students to connect with faculty early on in their academic career. By remembering a student's name or asking them how their work is progressing, you can play an integral part in helping them create a strong academic foundation here at MSU.

Has the program been successful at MSU Mankato?

Yes! We can say both statistically and anecdotally that the program has been successful for a large percentage of students.  Below is the data showing the average GPA and average retention rate (of first year students who participated in a learning community vs. those who did not) since the 2001-2002 cohort.

  1st Year Cumulative GPA 1st Year Retention Rate
Learning Community Students: 3.05 GPA 81.2%
Non-Learning Community Students: 2.94 GPA 77.0%
Source: MSU Institutional Research, September 2011

More detailed information from our participation in the National Study for Living Learning Programs and our historical retention and GPA data are available on the Supporting Data page.

What do students say about the program?

"My favorite part of the learning community is belonging. It was really nice to have a community of people I could relate to at the very beginning of the year: we're kind of like a great big family. When everything was new and a bit scary, it was reassuring to have that small support system of my learning community." - Elementary Education Major

"The learning community has done more for me then I could ever imagine. It has connected me with the campus, to the faculty, and not to mention the best friends that I have gained for life. It has helped me stay focused to my goal, and is preparing me for the future." - Nursing Major

What students participate in learning communities?

Any and every new entering first-year student is eligible as long as they have submitted a university housing reservation and housing pre-payment. Space is limited however, so interested students are encouraged to apply early since enrollment is based on a first-come, first-served basis. There are a variety of majors and interest areas represented from year to year. Also, there are typically sophomore learning communities for elementary education and nursing. In order to participate in a sophomore learning community, the student must have been in a learning community during their first year at MSU.

For the 2011-2012 academic year, we had 13 first-year learning communities with over 280 students participating.

How do I know who my Learning Community Coordinator is?

Your Learning Community Coordinator will make contact with you within the first week of the fall semester, most likely via e-mail, to introduce themselves.  You can also click here to check out all of the LCCs on staff.

What do Learning Community Coordinators do?

Learning Community Coordinators live on the residence community floor with the students and serve as a peer mentor. They plan social events, study groups, and service projects, as well as serve as a go-to person for the students in their community. They also work with those faculty interested in setting up times to meet with the learning community to socialize and assist outside the classroom.

Who do I contact if I have a question or an idea regarding learning communities?

Kate Hansen

Assistant Director for Academic Initiatives

Office of New Student and Family Programs

Email: kate.hansen@mnsu.edu
Phone: 507-389-5498