Starting in fall 2012, incoming freshmen at the University will be place in “learning communities” or linked classes, as the University begins to implement changes with the goal of creating a “La Verne Experience” that supports students and distinguishes the University.
“Learning communities” are based on an interdisciplinary approach, or putting groups of students with similar interests in classes together.
“Learning communities in and of themselves are good, and we have lots of evidence (to support that),” said Jonathan Reed, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, who is spearheading the project.
The basic structure will consist of grouping the same 30 students in one major class, along with a second GE class, then the 30 will be split into two 15-student writing classes.
The two GE courses will be linked and the curriculum, depending on the instructors, will be more-or-less integrated.
Evidence shows that learning communities helps freshmen adapt to the university environment, and they assist retention rates and improve learning outcomes, Reed said.
“Also in our freshman learning communities, we will have full-time faculty teaching them. We want to make sure students are exposed right away to full-time faculty,” Reed said.
In his research on learning communities Reed turned to Carlos Cervantes, associate dean of academic support and retention services, who had done his doctorial dissertation on the subject.
According to Cervantes, research suggests that students who have participated in learning communities had better experiences both academically and socially.
Research also shows that students will engage and connect with other students in their community because they have similar interests.
It helps them build a foundation to branch off and connect with the rest of the University, according to Cervantes’ research.
Despite the research, some current students – who will not be involved in the freshman linked classes – did not think they were necessarily a good idea.
Serveral students when told about the plans for next year’s freshmen said they thought the learning communities would isolate new students from the rest of the rest of the community and take away from their La Verne experience.
“It limits choice for individuals,” said Daniel Sillas, a junior speech communications major.
“College is about being an individual and this creates a distinction, it’s like creating a label,” Sillas added.
Cervantes said, however, that learning communities will help students build friendships, which will extend outside of the classroom.
The idea of this program is to make the transition from high school to college an easy one, Cervantes said.
“Being involved in outside activities with the students, makes them feel a part of a place as opposed to just a student,” added Sean Bernard, professor of writing, who has been involved with planning the new program.
“I can see the best intentions,” Sillas said. “But I don’t see it progressing. Faculty will be for it but students will be against it.”
Veronica Sepulveda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.