Learning Communities Guidelines and Proposal Form
Learning Communities (LCs) at Stonehill College feature linked or collaboratively taught classes from different disciplinary perspectives and are designed to foster students’ abilities to integrate learning--across courses, over time, and between campus and community life. Integrative learning goes beyond academic boundaries, because integrative experiences often occur as students address real-world problems that are unscripted and sufficiently broad to require multiple modes of inquiry and multiple perspectives. Integrative learning also involves internal changes in the learner, changes that indicate growth as a confident, lifelong learner, including the ability to adapt one’s intellectual skills, to contribute in a wide variety of situations, and to understand and develop individual purpose, values, and ethics. Integrative learning, whatever the context or source, builds upon connecting both theory and practice toward a deepened understanding. LCs are all about making connections, and these connections often surface in reflective work, self-assessment, and creative endeavors of all kinds. LCs bear variable credit, depending on the design, and may fulfill other Cornerstone requirements (e.g. Natural Scientific Inquiry, Statistical Reasoning, Moral Inquiry, etc.).
The following guidelines apply to all Learning Communities:
- LCs consist of linked courses taught by different professors or, in some cases, standalone, co-taught integrative seminars. Each linked course and/or integrative seminar must conform to an existing credit-model course template.
- LC instructors draw on multiple disciplines, fields of study, or modes of inquiry to examine an overarching topic or theme.
- LCs foster collaborative learning and teamwork inside of and outside of the classroom to solve real-world problems and achieve challenging goals.
- Many LCs incorporate short-term travel, experiential learning, community-based learning, or creative projects in order to deepen or enhance students’ learning experiences.
Options for the Design and Structure of Learning Communities
LCs may range from an individual 4-credit integrative seminar taught by two instructors to a 9-credit or 10-credit cluster of three courses. The following faculty workload formula applies, with some modifications for courses with low enrollment, to be discussed below.
|Credits per LC||Number of LC courses||Credits|
|4 credits||One 4-credit course||3 credits each|
|7 credits||Two 3-credit courses + One 1-credit course||5 credits each|
|9 credits||Three 3-credit courses||6 credits each|
|10 credits||One 4-credit course + Two 3-credit courses||6 credits each|
In cases where the faculty teaching the LC are seeking a cap size lower than 25, the following rules apply: (i) All such lower cap sizes need to be negotiated with the Dean of Faculty in consultation with the Department Chairs or Program Directors. (ii) If the sought after cap size is lower than 16, the Dean of Faculty reserves the right to propose a decrease in the amount offered by the workload formula above; the extent of the workload reduction in such cases will be arrived at through negotiations among the affected faculty members, the Dean of Faculty, and the Department Chairs or Program Directors.
In cases where an LC is under-enrolled the following rules apply: (i) If the enrollment number is less than 10, the Dean of Faculty has the right to cancel the LC. In such cases the same procedures will be followed for faculty workload as in any other cancellation. (ii) Alternatively, the Dean of Faculty may extend to the LC faculty members the choice to run the LC fo a reduced workload credit. In these cases, the faculty members will have the option to accept the lower workload credit or to simply cancel the course, following standard procedures.
Common Learning Outcomes
Students in all Learning Communities will demonstrate the ability to:
- integrate ideas, strategies, and skills from classes (and/or disciplines) included in the LC (integrate);
- reflect on and explain how integrating ideas, strategies, and skills included in the LC leads to new insights or understanding (reflect);
- apply key themes, concepts, and modes of inquiry from the LC to practical problems or new situations (apply);
- connect ideas, strategies, and skills learned in the LC to their community, society, or the world (connect);
- work collaboratively with other students to solve problems, examine complex issues, or complete projects (collaborate);
Instructors may use a wide variety of formative and summative strategies to assess student learning in LCs, including traditional paper grading, class participation rubrics, high-stakes and low-stakes assignments, intellectual journals, performance tasks (emphasizing primary sources, analysis, and problem solving), integrative writing assignments, or creative projects and presentations. Special emphasis should be placed on assessing integrative learning, the ability to synthesize knowledge from multiple perspectives, reflect on the learning process, apply that knowledge in new and/or real-world contexts, and collaborate with others to solve complex problems and achieve challenging goals.
Learning Communities should not waive existing course prerequisites. Decisions about prerequisites are made by departments and if they are not necessary for courses tied to a LC, they should first be removed for the individual courses.
In order to provide equal access to LCs, charging fees for non-travel LC’s is highly discouraged. Faculty who want to add or change a fee to a course must obtain the approval of the appropriate department chair and the Provost & Vice President of Academic Affairs. Any faculty member requesting a course fee or any increase to an existing course fee must submit a completed Course Fee Approval Form to the Provost’s office.
Learning Community Proposal Form
In addition to completing the form below, instructors should attach an abbreviated (one-page) course syllabus for the LC’s Integrative Seminar, reflecting seminar content, required travel or other activities, and methods of assessment. All LC proposals must be submitted to the General Education Advisory Committee for review, including proposals to alter the structure of an existing LC and/or to adjust the number of credits offered. LC proposals that contain newly-proposed courses (not previously offered) will be forwarded to the Curriculum Committee for final approval. If the original courses are changed within an existing LC, the title and course number of the LC must also change. Newly-proposed 4-credit LCs must be submitted to the Curriculum Committee and the General Education Advisory Committee for approval. Prerequisites for linked courses within LCs should be avoided whenever possible.