Clark Expands Learning Communities

By Elizabeth Perry in Life

In a push to improve retention, Clark’s investment in Learning Communities is unwavering.

Learning Communities fall under two categories; a group of students that take core classes together, as well as combined curriculum classes where two instructors teach one integrated class together. Clark continues to offer Learning Communities to improve student retention and success, despite the higher cost of the classes for the college.

According to Transitional Studies Learning Communities Manager Janette Clay, there are many benefits of being in a learning community.

“Students who are connected are much more likely to stay at a college and therefore obtain their degrees,” she said. Students are able to form long lasting friendships, study groups and develop increased accountability and responsibility. “Our lives are totally connected, so in an integrated learning community, or I-BEST, you really learn to make those connections between those subjects,” Clay said.IMG_0160

Classes are recorded individually on transcripts and tuition is the same as traditional courses, according to Vice President of Instruction Tim Cook. Learning Communities are a part of the strategic enrollment and retention plan, and the college will try to keep them running after the state grant ends in September 2016.

The Learning Communities currently have low enrollment numbers and they cost the college more than regular classes because two instructors are being payed for one class.

However, students remain at Clark longer, making the return on investment cost effective. “We believe in Learning Communities,” Cook said.

Clark offers four types of Learning Communities: Fast Track, I-BEST, First Quarter, and Fully Integrated courses. “I think there’s a learning community or an integrated learning community for everyone,” said Transitional Studies Coach Nicole Hopkins.

Fast Track, a program in the transitional studies department, is designed for high-level English as a second language for students. The students meet 15 hours a week at Columbia Tech Center to develop listening, speaking, life and tech skills.

Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training, or I-BEST, combines college level English, an I-BEST support class and a content class. This is for students moving from transitional studies to college level classes and who place below college level math and english.

Students in the First Quarter community take College 101 and then English and Math together. Sixteen of these courses will be offered in fall 2015. Nine are 12 credit communities and seven are worth seven credits. New and eligible students are encouraged by transitional studies staff to join these communities to improve their college success.

Unlike the First Quarter community, where students take different classes together, the Fully Integrated community combines two classes. In the fall, there will be an English and sociology community and an English and women’s studies community offered. Two instructors will co-teach these classes.

Three new learning communities will be offered in Winter 2016: Small Group Communication with Technical Writing, Women’s Culture with Women Artists Through History and Intro to Mass Media with Journalism.

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