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Flynn, M.A., Everett, J.W. and Whittinghill, D. (2015). The impact of a living learning community on first-year engineering students. European Journal of Engineering Education (ahead of print) 1-11. DOI: 10.1080/03043797.2015.1059408.

The authors define “living learning communities as “Most LLCs are communities in which students pursue their academic curriculum with a blended co-curriculum involving a theme, concept, or common subject matter while living together in a reserved part of a residence hall.” (p. 2) and “LLCs can be characterised by close working relationships among students and faculty; specialised course assignments; study groups; close relationships among student members; and specialised events, activities and workshops.” (pp. 2-3). They report on a survey carried out in and engineering living learning community (ELC). The authors argue that LLCs might be particularly beneficial to engineering students, given their having to adjust not only to a new environment as entering students, but also to a heavy course load. In this ELC, the students lived together in the same residence hall, took two common courses per semester and their classes encouraged cooperative learning. Students applied to join the ELC, which allowed the authors to compare two cohorts – the ELC students and the non-ELC students enrolled for the same courses. The students were surveyed for their perceptions of transition, student-student relationships, student-faculty relationships and levels of satisfaction with the institution. The findings show that the ELC students perceived their transition to college to be easier than the non-ELC students. They also reported better student-student relationships and greater satisfaction with and connectedness to their institution. The two groups were about the same in their perceptions of student-faculty relationships. The authors conclude “It is recommended that LLCs be used to foster positive student perceptions of transition to college, connectedness to the institution, peer relationships, and their overall satisfaction with the institution.” (p. 9)

This paper has many references to other studies on LLCs, reporting on many and varied benefits. For example “Literature suggests that peer interactions of this sort [friendships, networking, study groups] increase student involvement and participation, which in turn are positively linked to institutional retention” (p. 7) and “First-year students who are easily able to transition from high school to college are more likely to stay at the institution and graduate, positively impacting retention rates” (p. 5). I would really like to look up all of those references and see which ones are based on actual hard data. Altogether I enjoyed this paper, found the data interesting and plan to follow up on several of the references.

Do not treat this blog entry as a replacement for reading the paper. This blog post represents the understandings and opinions of Torquetum only and could contain errors, misunderstandings or subjective views.