Two reports offer findings on the effectiveness of learning communities, a popular strategy that places small cohorts of students together in two or more thematically linked courses, usually for a single semester, with added support, such as extra advising or tutoring.
A Synthesis of Findings from Six Community Colleges
This report looks at the short-term impacts of 174 one-semester learning communities for developmental students at six community colleges. On average, the programs produced a modest impact on credits earned.
Six-Year Effects of a Freshman Learning Community Program at Kingsborough Community College
Students who participated in a one-semester learning community, in which small groups of student took three linked classes together and received other extra services, were more likely to have graduated six years later. The program also proved to be cost-effective.
Early Results from an Evaluation of Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) for Developmental Education Students
The City University of New York’s ASAP program requires full-time attendance and offers comprehensive supports to community college students for three full years. Early results from a random assignment study show that ASAP increases credits earned, full-time enrollment, and completion of developmental (or remedial) coursework.
Impact Studies at Merced College and The Community College of Baltimore County
Two colleges implemented semester-long learning communities linking developmental English with a range of other courses. At Merced, learning communities students earned more developmental English credits and passed more English courses than a control group. At CCBC, there were no meaningful impacts on students’ credit attempts or progress. Neither college’s program had an impact on persistence or on cumulative credits earned.
An Impact Study at Hillsborough Community College
A random assignment study of learning communities that linked a developmental reading course and a “college success” course finds that faculty collaboration and curricular integration increased over time. Overall, the program had no impact on students’ academic success, but evidence suggests that it had some positive effects for the last cohort of students in the study.
The Policy and Practice of Assessing and Placing Students in Developmental Education Courses
This paper reports on case studies conducted at three community colleges to learn about how the colleges assess students for placement in developmental education courses. The case studies identify several problems and challenges, including lack of consensus about the standard for college-level work, the high-stakes nature of the assessments, and the minimal relationship between assessment for placement and diagnosis for instruction.
The Experience of Six Community Colleges
Learning communities, which enroll groups of students together in coordinated classes, are increasingly being used to help developmental-level students succeed. This report on the Learning Communities Demonstration, a large-scale, random assignment evaluation, describes the strategies that six community colleges used and the challenges they faced in scaling up their programs.