Learning Communities

Learning communities co-enroll small groups of students in two or more courses with mutually reinforcing themes and assignments.

They are designed to give students "opportunities for deeper understanding and integration of the material they are learning, and more interaction with one another and their teachers as fellow participants in the learning enterprise" (Gabelnick et al., 1990). National research studies, as well as Medaille College’s own experience with learning communities, show that the active, participatory team environment that learning communities promote make learning easier and more rewarding. All new freshmen at the Buffalo Campus participate in first-year learning communities. While learning communities are used in other contexts at Medaille College, they are embedded in the first-year undergraduate experience because they help students develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are foundational for success in College. Some of the benefits of learning communities include:

  • Coordination: While each course is different, professors coordinate activities and assignments. Sometimes, topics will run parallel in several courses. At other times, the skills learned in one course will come in handy in another. A wealth of national research literature demonstrates that the curricular integration offered through learning communities helps students develop a deeper understanding of coursework and engage more actively in their education.
  • Connection: The learning community design allows students to connect with professors, fellow students, and essential College support services more easily and quickly. Freshmen in learning communities report that they are able to begin to form strong friendships and support networks right from their first day of College.
  • Cooperation: Learning communities foster active, collaborative learning. Students actually learn better when they talk with friends about what they are doing in their courses and when they have ready access to faculty and campus resources. Cooperation and teamwork make learning easier, and they are hallmarks of the learning community experience.

In addition to promoting the benefits that are being realized by campuses across the nation, first-year learning communities at Medaille College include special features that not only enrich classroom learning but also extend student learning beyond the classroom. Themes are carefully connected to larger issues in the local, regional, and global communities, and Community 101 projects featured in the first-year learning communities move students outside the classroom to engage in real-world problem solving. Additionally, students have several opportunities to participate in co-curricular activities that are explicitly linked to the themes of the courses and the community-based projects on which they are working.

For more information about learning communities at Medaille College, please contact Debby Ceppaglia at deborah.m.ceppaglia@medaille.edu or (716) 880-2157, or the Office of Academic Affairs at (716) 880-2241.

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