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Objective 1:  Inclusive Learning Communities

Each partner institution will systematically document the design, development, and implementation of inclusive learning communities on their campus. They will also assess of the impact of inclusive learning communities on the engineering educational experiences from the standpoint of both students and faculty.

An unexpected by-product of our Year 15 curriculum models was the creation of learning communities within the Foundation Coalition (FC) courses. Students joined each other and with faculty to meet the challenges posed by the new curriculum. We consider the development of these learning communities to be one of our finest achievements during our first five years. As a result, we are determined to provide the benefits associated with belonging to a learning community to all students and in a formal way, hence the term "inclusive learning communities."

We have defined inclusive learning communities (ILCs) to be "students, faculty, and employers with common interests who work as partners to improve the engineering educational experience." We are envisioning defined cohorts of students and teachers working in a structured environment with formal industry participation. This experience spans multiple terms and multiple courses, each term with identifiable physical space devoted to the endeavor. There is a focus on the value of diversity as it relates to the engineering enterprise and the value of assessment and evaluation as it relates to continuous personal and professional improvement.

The University of Wisconsin (UW) will take on a leadership role in our initial efforts related to the formal establishment of inclusive learning communities across the Coalition. Just as we took advantage of existing innovations at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (RHIT) and Texas A&M University (TAMU) as we began Year One, we will take advantage of UWs expertise in this area. There currently exist four resources at UW upon which we will be able to draw:  the UW Center for Creating a Collaborative Learning Environment, the Freshman Learning Communities Program that was established through the TRP funds, the Bradley Learning Community in the Department of Liberal Studies, and the College of Engineering Learning Center.

In addition to the actual construction of inclusive learning communities on each campus, individual institutions will also focus on a number of related activities. While the complete list of partner activities that are classified as supporting inclusive learning communities is quite large, a representative sample of these activities is provided below.

  • University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and TAMU will focus on conducting faculty-oriented workshops associated with various ILC-related topics.

  • RHIT will direct its attentions towards the role technology can play in fostering ILCs.

  • UA and TAMU Kingsville are in a unique position to explore the benefits of ILCs with respect to specific minority populations since the University of Alabama College of Engineering ranks in the top ten nationally with respect to percentage of African-American students (for a non-HCBU institution) and TAMU Kingsville is a majority Hispanic institution. Characteristics of ILCs involving these populations will be explored on each of these campuses.

  • Arizona State University (ASU) will focus their ILC design on its extremely diverse student population, on the use of virtual ILCs, and on ways to include Maricopa Community College System students who will ultimately transfer to ASU.

Last updated: October 24, 1998.

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