SEAHO Report - Summer 2021 - 17

FEATURE ARTICLES
LIVING ON CAMPUS IS BENEFICIAL:
Studying the Impact of Student Involvement
Through Living-Learning Communities
Stephen McCay, University of Southern Mississippi
Designed as a space for sleep, study, and basic relaxation, residence halls (formerly known as dormitories)
have evolved to become an integral part of the college campus-a venue to provide student services and a
locale focused on enhancing student learning. In the 20th century, institutions of higher education began
allocating resources to restructure the purpose of residence halls in order to foster student development
and instruction (Schroeder, Mable, & Associates, 1994). As residence halls garner attention as a likely space
for enhanced learning opportunities, colleges and universities are beginning to see the utility in connecting
aspects of learning, campus living, and peer networking within a renamed form of residence life: livinglearning
communities (Inkelas et al., 2001). A living-learning community can be studied using the following
as a basic definition for this research: a group of students living together who have a purpose of focusing on
learning outside the classroom and that interacts with the institution's staff, who assist with the students'
holistic development (Inkelas et al., 2001). Not only are colleges and universities investing time and effort into
restructuring residence life to foster enhanced learning and student development, but the academic field of
student affairs administration itself has taken note of this significant adaptation and is promoting it as a viable,
beneficial practice for campus life (Schroeder et al., 1994).
Research Rationale
Since Astin (1984), there have been other researchers who have focused on integrating student involvement
and living-learning communities. Kuh, Schuh, and Inkelas are some of the researchers on the forefront of
student learning and the outcomes that students have from engaging in various environments. Each researcher
contributes more information to the field of study for practitioners to use in their everyday work. While the
researchers do not necessarily focus on the same topics, they each help bring focus to a new way of enhancing
student outcomes while in college. Even though there are multiple engagement opportunities for students to
take in college, it is valuable to know which methods are better than others. Having a better grasp on what
trends are taking place across campuses can help other institutions try new methods. It also allows institutions
to know what is working and not working locally.
The pathways to the desired student outcomes of an institution matters and it is vital for higher education to
know various paths. Nation-wide assessments help show exactly where the larger impact is seen and how to
make adjustments to get students going down appropriate paths to success. Higher education professionals
must know what opportunities are benefiting students the most to help provide evidence for the value of college.
With measures of accountability in place by society, it is important for institutions to have purposeful means for
student engagement. The focus is put on what is gained in student learning outside the classroom and livinglearning
communities offer one example for the larger body. Failure to delve into studying living-learning
communities' impact takes attention away from the benefits of living on campus and how housing serves as a
beacon for student development during the pivotal years of a student's life.
As research continues on living-learning communities, there are foundational needs that each institution has
that these communities can assist with attaining. These needs are institution specific, but relate to recruitment,
retention, and progression towards matriculation of students. The institution as a whole can find this
information helpful to know where students feel more involved. As institutions move towards first-year live-on
requirements for its incoming classes, institution professionals can know where to offer venues for connection
between the student and institution. Institutions that are concerned with meeting their purpose should be
focused on student interaction.
The benefit from this research is that higher education institutions and housing departments will be able to
see what impact, if any, living-learning communities have on student involvement. While all institutions have
similar missions, the approaches they take to meet those missions vary. At each institution, the interaction of
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Contents
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