Learning Communities offer students extra support to succeed in college

One of the keys to college success is having a strong support system. UA Little Rock’s Learning Communities offer just that – a network of peers, professors, and mentors who help students make the transition into college, academically and socially. The overall goal is to increase student retention by creating a strong support system for students.

The communities are of various kinds. Most include academic courses with professors who work together.

“Making connections is the overarching theme,” said Daryl Rice, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and student success. “Students often go into one class, walk out, and then don’t apply what they learned to another class. These communities help open their eyes to those connections, that what they learn in one class has relevance to another.”

Emily Junkans, a junior Donaghey Scholar, served as a supplemental instructor, or study group leader, last year in the Explore community. She attended Dr. Adriana Lopez-Ramirez’s Introduction to Sociology classes and then led discussion-based review sessions for students.

“My role was to review the material from the class to prepare them for weekly exams,” she said. “Even though the review sessions added an extra hour a week in a classroom to their schedules, I felt strong engagement from the students. Many expressed that they felt more prepared for the weekly exams after the sessions. As they grew more confident, they often surprised me and challenged me with fresh topics and examples distinct from the ones we had already seen in class or in the book.

“Many of them did activities together outside of class,” Junkans said. “They had an active group chat, and before and after the review sessions they would often talk about the other classes they shared with each other and give each other reminders about upcoming assignments.”

Aside from the academic support, Learning Communities also offer students a chance to engage socially and develop friendships.

“Retention literature and experience have shown that for students, what takes place outside the classroom is just as important as what happens inside the classroom,” Rice said.

Students in Learning Communities have the option of living in the same residence hall areas, which helps foster social interaction and provides the added benefit of mentoring and tutoring by the resident assistants who are part of the community team. Some of the classes are conducted in the Commons residential area, which provides a taste of residential life even for commuting students.

Each community caters to a group of students with similar needs and interests and has specific academic requirements. Three types of communities will be open in fall 2019:

Soar Learning Community

The SOAR group is comprised of students who need to sharpen the reading and writing skills necessary to succeed in all courses. Students will enroll in two courses: Academic Literacy (RHET 0321) and First Year Experience (PEAW 1300). Students who live on campus may be placed together on the same floor of a resident hall, but there isn’t a requirement to live in housing. About five SOAR communities will run, Rice said.

Explore Learning Community

Students in the Explore community will take three core classes: First Year Experience (PEAW 1300) Composition I (RHET 1311), and Introduction to Sociology (SOCI 230). Supplemental Instruction will be available. Again, students who live on campus may be placed together on the same floor of a resident hall, but there isn’t a requirement to live in housing.

Residential, Themed: Women in Leadership Community

New this fall will be a themed community focused on developing leadership skills for women. Students will live on the same floor in their housing. The community will not require students to take specific courses, but they will participate in co-curricular activities with personnel from Student Affairs and Academic Affairs.

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