By: Amy Dalrymple, INFORUM

Learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom.

That’s the idea behind “learning communities” that are gaining popularity in area college residence halls.

The concept takes a slightly different form on each campus, but the programs all have similar goals: increasing student retention and success.

At Minnesota State University Moorhead, first-year students living in learning communities take at least three of their fall semester classes together and live on the same floor of a residence hall.

MSUM launched four new programs this fall for students majoring in education, biosciences, visual arts and for general education students.

Jean Sando, associate vice president for academic affairs, said the programs incorporate more advising and interaction with faculty.

“We really hope to see the students feeling more at ease and bonded to their faculty and more at ease and bonded to each other,” Sando said.

MSUM has offered a similar program for honors students before.

Sando said the university would like to add more communities, including one for Native American students.

North Dakota State University saw more interest this year for its five learning communities, said Karla Thoennes, associate director for residence life.

Four of the programs are connected to academic majors, including engineering and architecture and pharmacy, and the fifth is a wellness community, which requires students to commit to be substance-free on and off campus.

Most communities have about 70 students and occupy two floors of a residence hall, Thoennes said.

The College of Business program has about 100 students who are dispersed throughout a hall.

Students say the communities help them make connections and they appreciate being around other students who are working on the same types of projects, Thoennes said.

Concordia College has a learning community for its Credo honors program.

Sophomores through seniors who are taking the honors classes can live together and develop connections outside of the classroom, said Provost Mark Krejci.

“The feedback I’ve received from the students living there is they like the rigorous atmosphere that’s there,” Krejci said.