Learning communities, which group new community college students in two or more related courses, are a popular strategy to improve success rates, especially for poorly prepared students. Often learning communities include faculty collaboration, shared assignments and curricula and connections to student support services. However, the benefits fade quickly, concludes research by the National Center for Postsecondary Research (NCPR) at Teachers College, Columbia.
Merced College in California and the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) each developed learning communities for developmental English students. Both created a “substantially different” experience for participants, researchers found.
At Merced, students in learning communities earned significantly more developmental English credits than students in the control group during the program semester; by the end of the next semester, they’d passed more classes. However, CCBC students in learning communities did no better than students in the control group. On average, neither college’s learning communities program had a long-term impact.
That matches results at four other colleges studied.
. . . when one-semester learning communities have impacts, they tend to be concentrated in the semester in which students are enrolled in the program. The evidence to date suggests that one-semester learning communities programs by themselves are typically not sufficient to boost reenrollment or increase credit accumulation.
An upcoming report will include an additional semester of student follow-up at each college.