What is a Learning Community?

Learning Communities (LCs) combine two regular classes into a single, shared, dynamic experience. LCs are taught by two instructors who work together to create connections between the classes.

A blend of classes.

My Learning Community, for example, blends College Composition and Reading (CCR 093) with Introduction to Philosophy (PHI 111). We improve our writing skills by writing about deep philosophical issues – the limits of knowledge, the nature of being, or the problem of consciousness. And, by writing about these issues, we delve deeper into our subjects than most ‘stand-alone’ classes have time for.

Other Learning Communities work the same way. History and Literature combine forces by linking literary works and their historical background into one class. Music Appreciation (MUS 120) and English Composition (ENG 121) create an awesome experiential way to build writing skills while listening to music. Check out the Learning Community web page for a listing of FRCC learning communities.

Here’s some advice.

Your college might offer learning communities as well, and maybe you’re unsure about signing up. If so, I asked some of my learning community students to offer some advice. Here’s what they wrote:

What’s the difference between a learning community and a regular class?

“The difference is the experience. More time is spent on important subjects throughout both classes… Regular classes don’t get as much hands on learning.”

“A learning community is a little more personal and hands-on. In a normal classroom setting, a teacher will lecture for an hour and then assign homework. In the learning community, it is more like we read something on our own time and then discuss what we interpreted from what we have read. The students have more say in how they see everything, and it makes it much easier to correct mistakes when everyone around you can tell you what you misinterpreted.”

Who should consider taking a learning community?

“Anyone who likes working in groups and discussing what we have learned with everyone will enjoy it. If someone was hoping to meet new people and have a more intimate way of learning, then a learning community could be a good option.”

“Anyone who wants to embrace a totally different approach to learning or merely wants to get a chunk of their classes done at once.”

“People who have tight schedules should take a learning community because having both classes back to back helps to understand and complete assignments.”

“I think anyone should consider taking a learning community.”

What’s the number one advantage (and disadvantage) of taking a learning community?

“I have been able to take more away from the classes collectively than I would in a regular class. What I mean is that since we almost focus on philosophy in both classes it has seemed to improve my writing. I have also taken a lot away from philosophy that I didn’t know before. I have taken techniques from English, and it has definitely helped me develop new helpful habits. I can’t think of any disadvantages.”

“The fact that you are not just limited to one person’s teaching style. You have the freedom to hear a number of people discuss the same topics that you have discussed, and from that learn and think about what we learned differently. You are opening yourself up to criticism, and sometimes that is a hard thing to do.”

How should one approach (or prepare for) a learning community class?

“One has to be on it, you can’t mess around, and it definitely is a whole different approach to how information is processed. There are two different types of information that has to be processed at once.”

“Open minded. Prepare for a new type of learning experience.”

What’s your experience with learning communities? Please comment below.

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Mark Hussey is an English instructor at FRCC. He has taught in two different Learning Community classes, one that paired English with History and now one that pairs English with Philosophy. Mark moved to Fort Collins in 2005 to work on his master's in English at Colorado State University and to be closer to the Rocky Mountains.

One Response to “What is a Learning Community?”

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November 22, 2013 at 9:21 am, Amanda said:

I was in one of the first learning communities that FRCC had. It was an amazing experience. I think this is a great way to learn and I would absolutely recommend it to everyone.