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.
Students Navigating Community College
For this study, MDRC interviewed students at two colleges that are part of the Opening Doors Demonstration, a program to help community college students remain in school and succeed. The students spoke about their experiences on and off campus and the factors that help or hinder their progress in school.
Early Results of a Louisiana Scholarship Program for Low-Income Parents Attending Community College
Funded by state welfare dollars, two community colleges in the New Orleans area offered performance-based scholarships and enhanced counseling to low-income parents, as part of MDRC’s Opening Doors demonstration. These early findings show the program had significant positive effects on academic achievement and rates of retention.