Most freshman students on campus have either never heard of a Learning Community or they think it’s doltish. According to the U.S. Department of Education, a learning community “consists of small cohorts of students who are enrolled together in two or more linked courses in a single semester, a widely used strategy aimed at improving student outcomes.” Just by this definition, it may not seem like much, but in reality, it improves the career outcomes of a student by a large margin compared to a normal student that is attending university. Learning Communities are often based on a specific goal for a specific route in a field of interest. Not all students may have the exact same goal when joining, but with their same interests, they can inspire each other and adapt to new things. The point of a Learning Community is to provide opportunities such as internships, experience and direct knowledge on a student’s academic goals.
At the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, we have many different learning communities. There are residential optional learning communities such as Gen-X and SUCCESS, and then there are residential learning communities such as Health Connection, Engineering, Leadership, Nursing, Business, etc. These learning communities reside in the Lynch Hall. Here is an inside scoop from Shantanu Menawat, a first-year student who is apart of the Business Learning Community here at UNC Charlotte.
How has the Learning Community impacted you academically?
“It has put me on the right track for my major and what I want to do. So I am both pre-business and pre-Med and majoring in management, and the learning community provides me with certain classes that I need in order to achieve my goal. I also have professors that teach smaller classes in which I can better understand rather than sitting in massive lecture halls. I build a better connection with my professors and I have made closer friends.”
What about socially?
“Since we go to the same events and have some of the same classes together just reserved for BLC students, we get to meet each other a lot and we have better friendships. In fact, my roommates are now some of my best friends. I also get to meet people and gain connections through group events and network with leaders in business, allowing me to get first-hand knowledge and experience in my career field.”
What experiences/events specifically have you had within your learning community?
“We went to the Whitewater Center once, and over there we did a scavenger hunt as a team building exercise. We have also had guest speakers who come to talk about their business and explain why they went into a certain industry, how they made it, what struggles and obstacles they had to face before they became successful and basically explain how they went from being a start-up company to a major corporation. Not only did we hear about it, but we visited a small start-up company and checked out the makings of the business and how it was slowly growing.”
Based on your experiences and the events that you have went to, how has that helped you with your career plans and what lessons did you learn from it?
“There are more people than just you. Once you come to such a large university, you see all the diversity, see that there is a large variety of ideas and goals out there that we may have not even thought about based on career goals [and] interests, and that everyone is going through something different with a different story. We need to accept this diversity, embrace it and learn from it.”
Because the Business Learning Community is a residential learning community, how do you feel sharing a floor with other students that you always see and share classes with?
“I’ve noticed that in the BLC, because you share a place with people you have common interests with, you always have something to talk about and something to expand upon leading to actually getting to know your roommates, neighbors and classmates. This makes a resident become more socially-outgoing and it makes the atmosphere of college feel like a home. I’m glad I joined the BLC because of this.”
What is the one thing, you as a learning community student, have that a regular student at UNC Charlotte does not have?
“The BLC has mentors that were in the BLC last year and they give pointers to current students on what tracks they might want to focus on taking and what direction they want to go into for their career. These mentors are really outgoing, and even though they do not know you, they really care about your future and are always willing to help with any questions or concerns you have academically. They even help you find internships and opportunities to give you a start in your career as you’re in school.”
Learning Communities provide students with a more advanced learning and social experience. The classes are smaller and the professors and students stay consistent throughout the year, allowing students individually to open up and become comfortable with their surroundings and the campus. Because of the opportunities provided by Learning Communities, the students are also able to build connections with colleagues in the workplace and their mentors. I did not know much about Learning Communities until the SOAR Orientation over the summer before class started, but I joined one because my other friends were planning on doing so. Although I didn’t make the decision by myself initially, it was the best decision I made to start off my higher education before I move on to the workplace. I urge students and faculty who know of students who are now applying to universities to introduce the concept of Learning Communities to them. It doesn’t matter what school you go to, Learning Communities are helpful to anyone who puts their effort to make it in.