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Learning Communities
      Frequently Asked Questions


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What is a learning community?

A learning community is a group of students and faculty working together to explore an idea in-depth. Instead of signing up for a few unrelated five-credit classes with unconnected assignments and learning outcomes, you sign up for a learning community that links together two or three separate courses into a single class environment. These courses are either fully integrated classes or linked courses.

A fully integrated class is a ten- or fifteen-credit class that meets together with all of the instructors for two or three hours a day, giving the students the chance to get to know their classmates and faculty members well. These supportive, integrated learning environments create strong class communities - thus, the name "learning communities."

SCC's learning communities usually focus on a central theme (for example, the environment, heroes, ancient Greece, modernism, racism, or food), and your instructors work to connect your assignments and readings around that theme. You get the chance to study your class theme from a variety of academic disciplines, letting you see how knowledge is interconnected. This helps you see how knowledge of one academic area (like sociology, biology, or composition) can help you excel in other areas. In general, these courses integrate all the assignments and share a single course syllabus and grade.

Alternately, a linked class is a ten-credit course that also combines two different disciplines (like Philosophy and Composition, or Math and Study Skills), but the classes, syllabi, and assignments have greater independence. You meet with a cohort of students for one class with one instructor, and then you move with the same group of students to the second class and second instructor. The teachers work together to have shared readings and a few integrated assignments, but they usually have separate syllabi and grades.

Both types of learning community structures allow students to see how the work that they do in one subject area can help them understand another area. Unlike traditional, "stand-alone" classes, learning communities don't focus on only one discipline at a time. Because it is interdisciplinary, the classes use multiple academic perspectives to explore your class theme.

What are the advantages of a learning community?

A learning community is a great way to meet the needs of AA-degree and transfer requirements in a unique way. Many of the classes meet "W" (writing-intensive) course requirements and others fulfill the "D" (diversity) requirement; see each individual course description for more information. Additionally, InSync learning communities combine pre-college Reading and Writing courses that could be required for your program or certificate. All learning communities – both linked and fully integrated courses – appear on your transcript just the same as stand-alone courses do.

By taking a class with a specific theme or topic that you are interested in, you can connect your own personal interests with the courses that you are taking. These classes increase your critical thinking and reasoning skills as you find the connections between the academic disciplines, and most students see knowledge in a more interdisciplinary manner once they have taken a learning community - they know that what they learn in a psychology class can help them understand characters in literature, and learning about history enables them to understand philosophy better.

Also, students develop strong friendships with their classmates and better relationships with the faculty as well. Shy people who tend not to speak up in most classes usually feel more comfortable offering their ideas because they know their peers better. This collaborative environment helps your group work skills and your communication abilities.

The tools and skills that you develop in a learning community can be successfully applied to any and all your future academic classes, regardless of the discipline. For example, learning to write better (whether it is about baseball or travel) is a skill that will help in all your classes, not just learning communities.

What do other students say about these classes?

Students in a recent class had this to say about learning communities:

"Students who take LCs [learning communities] are more likely to understand the texts better than other students because you have two teachers giving two different points of view."
"Students who take LCs are more likely to express their opinions and feelings than other students because in LC classes, you are closer to your classmates and professors."
"A learning community is like taking a class with your friends. It gives you the opportunity to get to know your fellow students on a whole new level not seen in your typical college classroom setting."
"Students who take LCs are more likely to actually understand and care about the material more than other students do because the students get the opportunity to interact more with the subject matter rather than just jumping from assignment to assignment."
"Students who take LCs are able to write better written and thought-out papers on literature than other students because it forces you to analyze and really understand what is being read. I know that I'm walking away with a much better reading comprehension and a better ability to articulate my thoughts than when I came in."
Are these classes more difficult than stand-alone classes?

No. These classes are not more difficult than regular classes are, but they feel as if they move at a fast pace. Most instructors say that students read fewer texts, complete fewer exams and write fewer papers than if they were taking the two or three classes separately. You have the additional advantage of connected readings and assignments, so most of your work actually counts for all classes. Also, students say that the related ideas that they are studying help them understand the information better.

Can I sign up for just one part of the learning community?

Because learning communities are integrated classes – whether they are linked or fully integrated structure – you cannot pass the class by taking only one part of it. You must sign up for all the related classes (ten or fifteen credits, depending on the class).

Are the classes offered every quarter?

SCC offers learning communities almost every quarter, but the offerings often change from quarter to quarter and year to year. There is no guarantee that any class will be offered more than once, so if you see a class theme that interests you, don't wait to sign up.

To find out what offerings are planned for the future, see the schedule.

How do I enroll in these classes?

To enroll in a learning community, talk to a counselor or see the "Learning Communities" section in the catalog. The process is relatively easy, as when you register for one class that is part of a learning community, you should automatically be enrolled in the other(s). If you have trouble with the link, please speak to a counselor, the faculty teaching the class or the LC Coordinator at SCC (Angela Rasmussen, 533-8011 or angela.rasmussen@scc.spokane.edu) for help.

Be sure to make certain that the classes offered meet your individual needs before you sign up for the class.

Do these classes meet my AA-degree requirements? Do they transfer?

Yes! Signing up for a 100-level, college transfer course as part of a learning community will ultimately show up as a regular, single course on your transcript. For example, if you took English 101 as part of a learning community, your transcript will only show English 101, not the learning community. So depending on your transfer needs and AA requirements, a learning community can help you complete your degree or program. Make sure to check with a counselor for your individual course needs.

What happens if I have to drop the class?

In a fully integrated course, you cannot drop part of the class during the quarter and get partial credit. Since learning communities are ten or fifteen credits, dropping the classes can significantly affect you. Make sure that you are prepared to do the work for the class before you commit.

Linked classes offer more flexibility in this area.

How am I graded for learning communities?

Fully integrated earning communities at SCC have a single course syllabus and course grade. Therefore, your final course grade for the learning community would be repeated for each class that you are enrolled in. (For example, if you earned a 3.2 in a combined, ten-credit math and science class, your transcript would show a 3.2 for five credits of math and a 3.2 for the five-credit science course.)

Linked courses usually have separate grades and syllabi, so you are scored differently for each class.

Your final transcript will list all the courses that you took separately and won’t appear any different than if you had taken stand-alone courses.

How can I get more information about learning communities?

If you have questions about specific classes being offered, contact the instructors who will be teaching the class. They can give you information about the course theme, assignments, readings and other information.

If you have additional questions about learning communities in general, you can talk to the learning communities coordinator here at SCC: Angela Rasmussen (1-234E, 533-8011 or angela.rasmussen@scc.spokane.edu).



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