How do Learning Communities Support Student Development?
Learning Communities help students—especially those in their first and second years at the University—connect with peers and faculty who share common academic interests or educational experiences. The Association of American Colleges and Universities has identified Learning Communities as a high-impact practice for increasing retention and student satisfaction. UNL students in Learning Communities report a higher level of interaction with faculty, spend more time studying or preparing for class, and feel better supported by their peers, compared to students who do not participate in Learning Communities (NSSE 2010 data).
How do Learning Communities work at UNL?
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Learning Communities, a partnership between Academic Affairs and University Housing, integrate students’ academic and social experiences.
Students generally take one to three courses together and participate in co-curricular activities with faculty and staff who help them connect with one another and deepen their academic inquiry. Community-exclusive events range from opportunities for academic and professional development to social interactions and service-learning projects including dinners with UNL faculty and administrators, special access to visiting scholars and speakers, career workshops, and educational/service trips.
Some Learning Communities are designed for students pursuing specific majors or career interests (biology, journalism, music, pre-law, pre-vet, etc.), although most are open to students of any major who share that interest (agribusiness, creative writing, pre-health, etc.). The University Exploration Learning Community supports students who are undecided about their major or career interests.
Generally, membership in Learning Communities is available on a first-come, first-served basis. In some cases there are additional restrictions such as acceptance into a major program. Students apply to a first-year Learning Community via their UNL Housing Contract. Upperclass Communities have individualized application procedures.
In addition, UNL hosts a number of Scholar Communities, whose membership is by invitation or further application (E. N. Thompson Scholars, Nebraska Legends, WH Thompson Scholars, etc.).
Overall, the Learning and Scholar Communities Program at UNL has grown substantially in the past few years. For the 2013-14 year, we will host 25 communities, and approx. 15% of the freshman class will be involved in a Learning Community.
Creating New Learning Communities
Each year UNL departments and programs have the opportunity to submit proposals for new Learning Communities. Faculty/Staff members are strongly encouraged to work with the Academic Coordinator of Learning Communities, Tamy Burnett, and the Assistant Director of Residence Life for Learning Communities, Jordan Black, as they prepare proposals.
The deadline to propose a new Learning Community for the 2014-2015 academic year is September 15, 2013. This deadline allows adequate time for us to advertise and recruit students into new communities each year.Propose a New Learning Community