The study took place at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC), a community
college located in Baltimore, MD, that has three campuses and three extension centers in suburban
Maryland. Two campuses of CCBC participated in the Learning Communities Demonstration:
Catonsville and Essex.
All new and returning students at CCBC were eligible to be included in the Learning Communities
Demonstration study sample if they had placed into a developmental English course (either
reading or writing) that was one level below college-level English (resources were directed toward
those students who had the highest chance of getting to college level). This level of placement
was determined by Accuplacer test scores. Students also had to be available for class during the
times that the learning community classes were offered. The study initially enrolled students who
were 18 or older, but later enrolled students under 18 with parental consent. Students who were
eligible were given the opportunity to participate in the study. Randomization was done at the student
level. Across four semesters, 1,083 students were eligible to participate; 650 were randomly
assigned to the intervention group and 433 to the comparison group. Demographically, 59% of the
sample were female, 67% were non-White (predominately Black), and 77% were between 17 and
20 years old. Furthermore, 16% reported having at least one child, 17% indicated that their household
was receiving government benefits (such as food stamps or Supplemental Security Income),
46% indicated that they were receiving financial aid, 53% reported being currently employed, and
8% reported speaking a language other than English in their home.
The CCBC learning communities were organized around a developmental English course
(either reading or writing). Students coenrolled in the developmental English course; a collegelevel
content course (that was selected from a range of subject areas, such as sociology,
psychology, or computer information); and a master learner session. The master learner session
lasted for 1 hour per week and was a non-credit-bearing class that provided support and
guidance as students worked through their linked courses. The session concentrated on helping
students make connections between the content from the linked courses in each learning
community and was designed to reinforce the instruction from those courses.
Students assigned to the comparison group were allowed to enroll in any other classes for
which they were eligible or that were required, and they could receive the college’s standard
services. Many students in the comparison group enrolled in a credit-bearing student success
course that was mandatory for all developmental reading students and that was, according to
the study authors, similar in many respects to the master learner session taken by the learning
community students in the intervention group.
Researchers reported outcomes at two points in time: the program semester (i.e., the semester in
which students were enrolled in a learning community) and the first semester after the program. At
CCBC, participation in the learning communities began in spring 2008, fall 2008, spring 2009, and
fall 2009. For a more detailed description of these outcome measures, see Appendix B.
Support for implementation
According to the study authors, support for the learning communities provided by CCBC
included: a cross-campus, lead program coordinator; support from a seasoned senior administrator;
and an experienced learning community coordinator at each campus. Program support
for faculty included professional development workshops on curricular integration and
syllabi development. Faculty received a stipend of $750 or received a course load reduction
equivalent to one credit hour for every learning community taught. Faculty who created new
learning communities received an additional one-time stipend of $500 and $1,000, depending
upon the degree of course integration. Faculty who taught master learner sessions received
stipends of $2,250 or course load reductions of three credit hours.