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Applying the Best Practices Model
occur while simultaneously managing an ongoing financial crisis that has resulted in
institutions closing the doors on educational programs and initiatives and, unfortunately
for some, their campuses. In a moment when institutional leaders in higher
education face difficult financial decisions, high-impact practices (Kuh, 2008) such
as learning community programs are at risk for cuts or even elimination. Countering
such closures, Benjamin and colleagues (2020) emphasize that learning communities
are not only worth preserving but should be leveraged when designing future
learning experiences. Such an effort will stabilize and enrich student experiences,
which will ultimately reduce costs by improving student retention and satisfaction.
Over the past two decades, studies have discussed the importance of restructuring
the experiences offered to students entering colleges and universities, even as this
population changes (Smith et al., 2004). Some key changes include demographics,
residential choices, and added pressures on students' time and attention. The Boyer
Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University (1998) emphasizes
the importance of integrating first-year programs and providing spaces for collaborative
learning. In an effort to increase critical inquiry in the classroom, Kuh (2008)
called for active, student-focused learning opportunities that would challenge students
to immerse themselves in their learning processes. This call to action is still relevant
today, and learning communities are a response to this call.
There are many learning community (LC) designs: living-learning communities
(LLCs), linked courses, residential colleges, and coordinated studies programs. LLCs
specifically are most effective in establishing the immersive learning environment discussed
above when they are both designed intentionally and rooted in a clear set of
goals. These objectives then drive the alignment with and integration of all other LLC
elements (Inkelas et al., 2018).
As learning communities (encompassing all the LC designs identified above) have
been directly connected to the retention and persistence of first-year college students
(Gebauer et al., 2013; Katz, 2015; Voss, 2016), the growth and expansion of learning
communities at colleges and universities nationally and internationally has been
continuous (Taylor et al., 2003; Tinto et al., 1993). In an effort to improve academic
preparedness, learning communities engage students in " processes and collaborative
projects " (Watterson et al., 2012, p. 2) that build on one another during and potentially
across semesters through a set of connected coursework. To enhance this learning
experience, certain LC models will structure communities with a team of faculty
having diverse disciplinary backgrounds in order to create an interdisciplinary experience,
challenging students to explore content through multiple lenses (Watterson
et al., 2012). The effectiveness of this academic experience improves when the divisions
of student life and academic affairs are working seamlessly to facilitate this
" form of integrative, developmental learning through activities that link exploration
and action, both curricularly and co-curricularly " (Gebauer et al., 2013, p. 7). It is this
educational space where students, faculty, and staff can-as a community-explore,
deliberate, and address interdisciplinary challenges presented by such complex prob32
The Journal of College and University Student Housing

Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 48, No. 2

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 48, No. 2

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