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Learning Communities

"Taking the InSync course was a really good opportunity. This is my first year in college, and InSync showed me the ropes around school. I love the teachers (Deb Kyle and Joanna Semler). I would suggest the class to anyone."

~ Lacey Dickerson

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A learning community is a class that combines two or three academic courses into a single college class - a group of students and faculty members who meet together to explore a class theme. These classes are ten or fifteen credits, and they are a great way to meet program requirements as well AA-degree and transfer requirements.

At SCC, we offer fully integrated courses and linked courses (see the FAQs).

Learn more about how learning communities work and how to get involved in these interesting, innovative classes.

Jenny Butcher (photo)

"The learning community offers students the benefits of groups. I made some good friends in class, and I adored my professors. I felt supported by Mrs. Kyle and Mrs. Semler, and their confidence in my abilities to be successful in class began to rub off, and I too started to have confidence in myself."

      ~ Jenny Butcher

What is a learning community? (Click to open)

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 for help.

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

If you are new to college, or just looking to get some additional skills to help you do your best in your classes, the InSync program might be right for you. InSync is a learning community where you will develop a sense of belonging in the academic world by reading, studying, and writing with others in an enriched educational environment that will focus directly on your dreams, your direction, and your success.

This ten-credit class combines two classes, either a study skills course and writing improvement course or a combination of a reading improvement course and writing improvement course. While you are learning fantastic general strategies for college success, you have the chance to apply them to a specific class. InSync is designed specifically to provide the skills that you need to be successful, not just in this class, but in your entire academic experience.

InSync is offered most quarters with different instructors and different class times and course combinations. Look in the Upcoming Learning Communities section for more information.

Ali Sabyee (photo)

"InSync is the first class which I learned a lot of things in it. I learned how to be a good writer and reader. The InSync class has a lot of skills. I have done this class with these helpful skills, which helped me in the following class. InSync has a basic and helpful way to get to be a successful student. I learned how to take notes and how to summarize or organize my ideas so they are easier to understand. Also, I learned how to put my ideas in order. InSync was the beginning of developing and supporting my skills to get ready for English 99."

~ Ali Sabyee
Lee Fisher (photo)

"InSync introduces you to the tools and resources necessary to succeed. The course stresses the need for good study skills, note taking and attention to detail."

~ Lee Fisher

Here is what some other former InSync students say about their experiences:

  • I really don't think I could have opened up as much as I did without my instructors giving me good InSync learning technique.
  • ...InSync has refreshed my memory with things that I thought I would have never forgotten.
  • Each one of us had a lot of our cultural differences, yet we were all one team and we made a very fun class.
  • It is very important to me to succeed in school, to learn so I can have knowledge. I am planning to do everything it takes to accomplish and achieve my goals so my family can have a good life and I can look and say with pride, "Yes, I did it!"
  • At first when I got here I was a little intimidated by the expectations, but one class with a lot of love and care really opened my eyes in many ways.

Note: Class information on this page is subject to change without notice and does not represent a contract between the college and its students.

Fall 2015

Geography and Composition: The Earth Transformed
5 credits from Geography 101 AND
5 credits from English 101
(10 credits, 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Monday-Friday)
Instructors: Chris Kent, Geography (, 533-8407) and Betsy Lawrence (, 533-8103)
Fulfills ^W requirement

Human population has passed the 7 billion mark, and all parts of the world are increasingly interconnected. How have people modified our environment, both globally and locally, and what are the trends for the future? As an "Introduction to Geography" course, this class is structured around an examination of these questions.
All students who enroll in this section of Geography 101 will also be in the same section of English 101. In this course, you will compose major writing and research assignments for Geography in addition to developing college-level essay structure, research methods, and critical thinking, reading and writing.

Register using the following item numbers:

  • 2955 and 2568: English 101 and Geography 101
Women and Men: Examining Gender Roles in Literature
5 credits from English 101, 102, or 238 AND
5 credits from English 278 or 111
(10 credits, 9:30 a.m. - 11:30 p.m. Monday-Friday)
Instructors: Angela Rasmussen (, 533-8011) and Andrea Reid (, 533-7382)
Fulfills both ^D and ^W requirements

This 10-credit Learning Community combines composition and literature in a setting that challenges students as critical thinkers, readers, and writers. Drawing on the literature of women writers, students gain a better understanding of how women represent their lives and concerns. The reading list includes a variety of authors whose lives, primarily drawing on the writings of 19th and 20th Century British and American authors whose geographical locations and historical contexts reflect a wide range of experiences. The class covers traditional literary analysis skills of Introduction to Literature but focuses exclusively on writing by female authors, so students may enroll in either ENGL 111 or ENGL 278. The class also examines men's experiences, looking at expectations of masculinity within socially-constructed gender roles. A key component of the class is the use of guest speakers on a variety of gender-related topics. By the end of the class, students have a deeper understanding of how to read and interpret literature and how to write clear, persuasive academic essays.

Register using one of the following item numbers:

  • 2958 and 2475: English 101 and English 111
  • 2961 and 2490: English 101 and English 278
  • 3024 and 3478: English 102 and English 111
  • 3027 and 2493: English 102 and English 278
  • 3069 and 2481: English 238 and English 111
  • 3072 and 2496: English 238 and English 278
Writing Life: Biology Linked with English Composition
5 credits from English 101 or 102 AND
5 credits from Biology 222
(10 credits)
Instructors: Scott Orme (, 533-8079) and Erin Griffin (, 533-8664)

The most successful scientists (biologists, geneticists, microbiologists, etc.) are not only great at their research, they are also skilled information-seekers and know how to locate current and credible scientific literature, synthesize what they have learned and communicate it - along with their own scientific findings - through the written word. This takes practice!
"Writing Life: Biology Linked with English Composition" is a unique opportunity for biology majors to use two required classes (BIOL& 222 and English Composition; ENGL 101/102) synergistically. Students in this learning community will build a strong foundation in biology that includes a variety of important themes such as an appreciation for the diversity of life on Earth, molecular structures and functions, evolutionary biology, genetics and heredity, health and disease, the importance of homeostasis, climate change, the philosophy of biology, the scientific method and the importance of academic writing. The benefits of scientific writing cannot be overemphasized, and students will be able to research topics that they are passionate about and that are relevant to their own lives and also to the world around them. Note that students can enroll in their needed level of Composition, English 101 or English 102.

Register using the following item numbers:

  • 2985 and 3170: English 101 and Biology 222
  • 3028 and 3172: English 102 and Biology 222
If You Are What You Eat, Then What Are You? Sociology 101 and English 101
5 credits from Sociology 101 AND
5 credits from English 101
(10 credits, 10:30 to 12:20 a.m., Monday-Friday)
Instructors: Rebecca Lindekugel (, 533-7052) and Carrie Bucher (, 533-7307)
Fulfills ^W Requirements

Few people are unaware of the current discussions about the health crisis caused by the American diet: record levels of obesity —particularly in children — diabetes, heart disease, etc., all of which negatively impact, and ultimately shorten, our lives. However, many Americans remain largely ignorant about where our food comes from, the processing and additives which alter its basic structure, how what we eat is produced (and by whom), and the alarming lack of adequate food safety inspections, all of which have a dramatic impact on the US economy. But even fewer Americans are aware of the profound interrelationship between our economy and those of other nations, particularly developing nations – it is no exaggeration to say that the actions of the corporations which dominate the food industry create reverberations felt around the world. Join us in a course which combines the study of sociological theories with research and writing as a means to examine the true nature of what we eat, why we eat it, where it comes from, and who besides ourselves is impacted by our consumption.

Register using the following item numbers

  • 2661 and 2979: Sociology 101 and English 101

Note: Class information on this page is subject to change without notice and does not represent a contract between the college and its students.

Winter 2015

Coming Soon!

Note: Class information on this page is subject to change without notice and does not represent a contract between the college and its students.

Spring 2015

The Changing Face of Discrimination
(10 credits, 7:15 to 9:20 a.m. Monday-Thursday, no Fridays)
Scott Finnie and Angela Wizner, Instructors
This learning community provides a journey into the history and irony of discrimination both at home and abroad. Special attention will be devoted to the failures and remedies of human interaction and the role of power and privilege among conflicting groups. Seminar groups/discussions, videos, readings, and short papers will be central to the class format. This learning community is composed of History 136 or 137 and Communication Studies 227 or Special Topics in Communication Studies.
The Others Amongst Us: The New Voices in Literature
(10 credits, 10:30 – 12:30, Monday-Friday)
Mita Sen and Angela Rasmussen, Instructors
During the second half of the twentieth century, the American society saw big changes in the population demographics with the influx of immigrants and those with newly acquired rights, all of whom have been a major influence in preparing America for the twenty-first century. It is time, now, to hear their stories, feel their emotions, and assess their experiences to both understand them as well knowing your personal role in this highly specialized, cross-cultural society. This class will include literature and film and will fulfill both your “W” and “D” requirements, introducing you to writers and poets who come from multicultural backgrounds. The course will give you 5 credits of literature credit (247 or 111) and 5 credits of composition credit (101, 102 or 238).

Note: Class information on this page is subject to change without notice and does not represent a contract between the college and its students.

Summer 2015

Stressed about A&P? Relax and learn with Yoga!
5 credits from Biology 241 AND
1 credit PE 106
(6 credits, Monday-Thursday)
Instructors: Mukti Ryan (, 533-8203) and Michelle Gendusa (, 533-8196)

This 6-credit option provides students with a unique opportunity, combining the rigorous content of BIOL&241- Human Anatomy and Physiology: Human body structure and function with emphasis on introductory cytology and histology; the skeletal, muscular and nervous systems; and the sense organs; linked with PE 106 Yoga Fitness, promoting individual fitness, total mind-body awareness, and stress management. The hands on approach of Yoga linked with the concepts of Anatomy and Physiology promotes the long term retention of information necessary for students going into nursing or Allied healthcare fields. This combination is also a good option for students looking to ease the anxiety associated with an intense science course.

Prerequisite: BIOL& 160 or permission of instructor. (SCC, SFCC)

Register using one of the following item numbers:

  • 0960 and 1152: Biology 241 and PE 106
  • 0964 and 1155: Biology 241 and PE 206

Top Ten Reasons to Teach a Learning Community:

  1. Renew Your Energy for Teaching - Not only do you reinvigorate your course by adding a central theme or lens to explore your discipline, but you also get to learn from other faculty. The students, the material and your teaching team all combine to invigorate your teaching.
  1. Learn Something New - As part of the learning community, you get to attend all the class lectures and discussions with your students and fellow faculty members. You get to become a student again, without having to do all the research yourself.
  1. Free Up Your Teaching - When you combine academic disciplines, you let your teaching partner take over a significant part of the class content, freeing you to focus on the most important aspects of your own discipline.
  1. Focus on the Texts - Because choosing a course theme often means that standard textbooks don't fit, most instructors choose their own primary texts. The additional readings become an important part of your class, and this focus helps students become more critical readers of primary sources.
  1. Make Connections - While most of the connections between disciplines come out in the course planning, inevitably new connections come from during class discussions. These moments make you look like a genius.
  1. Enjoy Creative Subject Matter - When you theme-atize your course, you have to reexamine the material and find the most important concepts in your discipline. Once you find those core ideas, you present them in new and innovative ways - a great way to tap into your creative energy.
  1. Present a United Front - As a team of teachers, you always have great backup. From keeping academic standards high to dealing with problem students, your teaching partner "has your back."
  1. Get More Time - Teaching in a two- or three-hour block gives you time that you do not ordinarily have in a daily class. This time makes watching films and completing in-depth discussion much easier.
  1. Attract Interested Students - Students in learning communities register for the class because there is something that interests them about the course theme and/or the learning environment.
  1. Gain Professional Development - Teaching with other faculty is the best form of professional development available. You have the chance to learn effective teaching methods you can incorporate into your stand-alone classes.

Some Useful Resources

  • Compatibility Survey - This document has some important questions to consider before you sign up to teach with a colleague.
  • The Washington Center for Improving the Quality of Undergraduate Education - Part of Evergreen College, the Washington Center offers training and curriculum planning retreats for LC faculty as well as a national conference and summer institute.
  • Deanza College's "Faculty Strategies for a Successful Learning Community" - This great list of strategies emphasizes key concepts for ensuring the success of your class.
  • LaGuardia Community College's "Pedagogy, Assessment and Links" - Near the bottom of the page is a list of faculty resources, including a great bibliography on LC research.