Just as service learning is a teaching methodology that engages students, faculty and institutions in new ways of understanding content, Learning Communities helps them view knowledge and learning in ways that connect meaning to multidisciplinary views and approaches. CSU Channel Islands faculty and administration started by examining the mission wherein the university “provides undergraduate and graduate education that facilitates learning within and across disciplines through integrative approaches…. To accomplish its mission, the university strives to create learning communities that involve all elements of the university.”

Almost immediately upon arrival at the new campus, half the faculty committed to attending a two day conference at neighboring Moorpark College which served as a crash course introduction to Learning Communities. Two of the faculty co-created an experimental Forensic Science interdisciplinary course at that workshop subsequently taught in Summer, 2002 while others participated in a panel discussion, “Planning for Learning Communities at a New University.

These efforts led to enthusiasm for submitting an application to the Washington Center for Undergraduate Education, “Second Annual Institute on Learning Communities,” June 25-30, 2001. Notification of selection occurred in February 2002 and planning meetings began in earnest throughout the Spring . The planning group polled the faculty, brought information to the institute and returned with further definition and directions, held a cross-campus workshop, solicited more input and participation and made recommendations.

Plans are underway to:

  1. establish a campus-wide task force on creating Learning Communities (LC s);
  2. pilot a cohort model in teacher credential program, team teaching in GE and majors;
  3. assess the pilots;
  4. plan full implementation for LCs with freshman (so you want to be a teacher? EDUC 101 and ENGL 100;
  5. continue with credential students cohort;
  6. continue with upper division GE (Cell Biology, BIOL 300 and Writing in the Disciplines ENGL 330) in fall, 2003.

For an overview, download this Power Point presentation -

Sustaining Interdisciplinarityat CSU Channel Islands Through Learning Communities & Organizational Structure (MS Powerpoint, 308KB)

CSU Channel Islands Selected for Participation in National Initiative for Colleges Engaged in Innovative Work

CSU Channel Islands is among 20 colleges and universities recently selected to participate in a National Learning Communities Project aimed at strengthening innovative approaches to college teaching and learning. A number of other colleges and universities across the nation have been experimenting with learning communities, initiatives that enroll groups of students in pairs or clusters of classes, often organized around interdisciplinary themes. Learning Communities help students build intellectual connections between subjects they are studying and build social connections with each other at the same time. They have proven to be powerful in fostering deeper student engagement in academic work and increasing student success in college.

CSUCI chemistry professor Phil Hampton reflected on his prior learning communities experience at the University of New Mexico: “I implemented learning communities in my teaching of Organic Chemistry by having students simultaneously enrolled in a parallel problem-solving course. Students in the problem-solving course worked in teams on problem sets related to the content in the lecture course. As a result, I observed dramatically higher student retention rates and overall higher class averages for student who participated in this learning community. The use of learning communities in lower division chemistry courses will be a hallmark of the chemistry curriculum at CSUCI. I am excited about participating in the Learning Community Institute to gain additional insight on how learning communities could be implemented in Chemistry courses and across the campus in general.”

A small but growing number of innovative community colleges, baccalaureate colleges and larger universities across the United States have established similar learning community programs. While each learning community initiative has grown out of local campus needs and interests and may vary in terms of its content and curricular design, all are winning recognition as path-breaking and effective new strategies for strengthening student learning.

Leading the National Learning Communities Project is The Washington Center for Undergraduate Education based at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, an international leader in developing innovative interdisciplinary programs. A clearinghouse for learning community approaches, the Washington Center is directing the project under the auspices of a $1.17 million grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Six CSU Channel Islands faculty and two administrators will participate in a residential learning community institute at The Evergreen State College this summer. The other selected campuses are the following public universities: Brooklyn College, California State University-Channel Islands, Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, University of North Carolina-Wilmington, and Washington State University; private four-year colleges: Vassar College (NY) and Bethune-Cookman College (FL); and community colleges: Cerritos College, Cuesta College, De Anza College, Mission College, and Moorpark College, all in California; as well as Cumberland County College (NJ), Fayetteville Technical Community College (NC), Johnson County Community College (KS), Lane Community College (OR), Montgomery College-Takoma Park (MD), San Antonio College (TX) and William Rainey Harper College (IL).

Each participating campus will send a team to The Evergreen State College for a five-day residential institute, then begin the process of building or strengthening their learning community initiative on their campus. In addition, each campus will receive consulting help on learning community development, assessment and administrative matters. Other elements of The Pew Trusts-funded National Learning Communities project are a Web site of resources on learning communities (http://learningcommons.evergreen.edu), and a published monograph series on learning community theory and practice to be distributed collaboratively with The American Association for Higher Education (AAHE).

For more information, please contact: Dr.Barbara Thorpe, Associate Vice President Academic Affairs at 805-437-8441.