Humanities Alliance Resources

Learning Communities (LCs) consist of relatively small cohorts of students who are enrolled together in two or more courses that are linked through themes, concepts, and/or assignments. They promote deep conceptual links across disciplines and strengthen connections to faculty, peers, and the college.

Historical and Theoretical Foundations of Learning Communities

Fink, J. E., & Inkelas, K. K. (2015). A History of Learning Communities Within American Higher Education. New Directions for Student Services2015 (149), 5–15.

The authors lay out the historical evolution of learning communities in the United States from the early colonial colleges through the 21st century. They recognize John Dewey and Alexander Meiklejohn as the foundational educational reformers of the 20th Century who laid the foundation for learning communities. The article brings together the many historical experiments, institutions, national reports, and grants that have contributed to the contemporary learning community movement.

Learning Communities as High-impact Practice in Community Colleges

Engstrom, C.M., & Tinto, V. (2008). Learning better together: The impact of learning communities on the persistence of low-income students. Opportunity Matters, 1, 1 – 17.

The authors describe the shifting patterns in higher education to account for the growing population of low-income students and report on the efficacy of learning communities for the academic success of this population. The article concluded that learning communities provide benefits such as increased motivation and confidence with recommendations for restructuring learning them to a foundational skills model to best meet the needs of these students.

Fogarty, J., Dunlap, L., & Dolan, E. (2003). Learning communities in community colleges. Washington Center for Improving the Quality of Undergraduate Education.

The authors explain the historical and ever-shifting role of two-year and community colleges in the United States. The two-year college as both a technical and general education institution, the attempt to build community on mostly commuter campuses, and a host of other contradictory pressures present challenges for student motivation, academic success, and retention. They suggest that learning communities are an effective way to counter many of these challenges.

Romero, E. (2012). Participation in learning communities as a predictor of student success at a community college. Journal of Applied Research in the Community Colleges, 20 (1), 36–43.

The author presents a study that explores the relationship between student success and participation in a learning community within a community college setting. The scope of the definition of student success in this article includes completion of the student’s own educational goals, transfer to a four-year institution, and degrees & certificates earned. The results of the study support the effectiveness of learning communities.

Smith, B. L., & MacGregor, J. (2009). Learning communities and the quest for quality. Quality Assurance in Education, 17(2), 118-139

This article contextualizes learning communities as a major reform effort in US higher education. The authors suggest several interventions to contribute to the successful scalability of learning community programs and initiatives.

Learning Community Resources

National Learning Communities Directory

A searchable tool that provides information about learning community programs in the United States including institution, program information, type of learning community, region, contact information and website links.

Learning Communities Association

Membership to this association is free and includes a listserv where over 700 learning communities practitioners from across the US pose questions and offer advice.

Atlantic Center for Learning Communities

Regional professional network dedicated to the study and advancement of learning communities. They also hold an academic and professional conference every year (postponed due to the pandemic).


Founded in 1974 as the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, “MDRC” became the official name of the organization in 2003. They have conducted critical research on the efficacy of learning communities at two-year institutions.

Washington Center for the Improvement of Undergraduate Education

Public service center at The Evergreen State College, is a national resource to two‐ and four‐year higher education institutions intent on creating equitable learning opportunities for all students through the strategic use of learning communities and other evidence-based practices.




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