Learning Communities at Lamar University

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1 Learning Communities at Lamar University Lamar University, Beaumont, TX. Member of Texas State University System 9000 students enrolled Spring 2007 Majority commuter students 61% of LU freshmen are firstgeneration students But only 42% of graduates are firstgeneration

2 LC Inception and Justification Began 2004 University retention rate from Spring 2004 to Fall 2004: 66% Large population of first-generation, commuters, and working students. Intended to address academic, social, emotional, behavioral, and cultural needs of students. Need for increased connection with university, and enriched academic and social experience. LCs known for offering increased intellectual interaction, deeper learning, group identity, and enriched university experience.

3 Program Structure Program staff: Director and three student assistants Coordinate with department advisors Coordinate with departments to reserve seats in classes Coordinate with campus resources to target LC student needs

4 Program Structure Student cohorts based upon major began with Business, General Studies, Pre- Nursing, and Pre-professional 2005 added Psychology to existing majors 2007 developing Criminal Justice and Sciences majors (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics) Students co-enrolled with cohort and share common courses. Cohort lasts Fall and Spring semesters of freshman year

5 Program Structure Weekly study meeting built into each group s schedule Designated room in Student Center building for LC groups Program staff checks in with students during meetings Special presentations throughout semester: Faculty representatives from respective LC major Campus resources and activities Attempt to identify unique student interests and encourage involvement

6 Program Structure Students recruited for Fall semester during freshman Orientation in summer When students report to advising offices in departments of major, they are given the chance to enroll in LC. Previous LC students assist with promotion Any student who enrolls is accepted; there is no application or screening process. If accepted into Lamar, students are able to enroll in LC program. Limited to 20 students per major; first-come-firstserve basis.

7 Difficulties & Solutions Budget limits resources to support students Partner with campus programs and offices: tutoring, mentoring, advising, Student Affairs professionals Small staff Only one full-time employee (Dr. Daniel Bartlett) devoted to program LCs one of several programs under direction of Dr. Bartlett Time divided amongst several student retention initiatives Student assistants maintain regular phone and contact to keep LC students connected and updated. Previous LC students have volunteered time to meet new students.

8 Difficulties & Solutions Large population of First-generation students, commuters, and working students. Comfortable, personal network and support system through LC group and staff Academic enrichment through study group Academic support through program

9 Difficulties & Solutions Student population has difficulty attaining involvement and connection with university experience Comfortable, personal network and support system through LC group and staff Departmental/faculty representatives meet students during weekly LC group sessions Targeted interests by major Small cohort allows personal connections by program staff

10 Difficulties & Solutions LCs based on major can be tricky when many freshmen will change major LC classes largely Core Curriculum Students take courses of their choice outside of LC cluster as well Changing major doesn t disqualify students from LC; they can take the Core classes with LC group Students still benefit from cohort support

11 Successes University administration supportive Faculty beginning to recognize benefits of LC to students as well as to teaching Ex: English instructors report pleasant experience due to LC cohort involvement in class Due to group connection and support, LC students have proven to be more likely to engage in class discussion and to be prepared for class. Departments have been very willing to work with LC program. Faculty and staff support in coordination

12 Successes LC Retention rates and GPA higher than university averages Program growth More students and increasing majors for LCs Student Satisfaction Students report high satisfaction with LCs

13 Assessment Evaluate Retention rates Evaluate one year rates of persistence GPA Compared to University average Following comparison groups by major and semester of entry Student satisfaction Surveys conducted at end of semesters in weekly study session as well as in LC classes.

14 Assessment GPA University Average: 2.3 LC Average: 2.7 First-year retention rates cohort: 45 of 57 students 79% cohort*: 59 of 86 students 67% (*in September 2005, Hurricane Rita closed campus for three weeks and caused dramatic reduction in enrollment still being overcome today) One year university-wide retention rates average 66% in years prior to Hurricane Rita

15 Assessment Student surveys 91% of LC students would participate again 90% would recommend LCs to a friend Engagement 85% of LC students reported socializing with other members of their LC

16 Assessment LC Student Survey Students wrote in that the best aspects of participating in Learning Communities included: Meeting other people in their major and making friends Having people to depend upon Seeing familiar faces in class and on campus Easily comparing notes, studying, and communicating with classmates Having a set time to meet and study

17 Summary LCs are new at Lamar but have already demonstrated success in increasing retention, GPA, and student satisfaction. New LCs are in development with other majors. Will develop LCs that cross majors but cluster based upon similar degree plans (ex: Fine Arts, Sciences, Education)

18 Thank you Dr. Daniel Bartlett Box Lamar University Beaumont, TX I welcome your comments, suggestions, or questions.

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