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Engineering Learning Communities – USA National Survey 2012

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

FPD 3: Research on First-Year Courses

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.514.1 - 23.514.12



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Paper Authors


Jess W. Everett Rowan University

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Jess Everett, Ph.D., P.E. is a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He has over 26 years experience as an environmental engineer and professor and has published over 63 refereed journal articles, chapters, and books. He has worked on more than 60 funded projects (totaling over $6M) and has worked with more than 100 undergraduate teams (over 220 different undergraduate students). He has been the director of the Rowan University Engineering Learning Community since 2009.

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Maggie A Flynn M.A. Elizabethtown College

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Maggie Flynn is an Area Coordinator in Residence Life at Elizabethtown College. She has an M.A. in Higher Education, Administration from Rowan University, and a B.A. in Communications from Temple University.

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Engineering Learning Communities – USA National Survey 2012The purpose of this study was to identify and describe Engineering Learning Communities(ELC) at US four-year institutions in 2012. ELCs were identified at 149 out of 356 USinstitutions with engineering majors. Information was obtained from 76 ELC coordinators, aresponse rate of 51 %.Most ELCs were targeted at the general engineering population; however, significant numberswere targeted at women, minority students, students in specific engineering majors, or somecombination. Almost all ELCs accept freshman year students. Smaller percentages acceptsophomores, juniors, and/or seniors. ELC size ranged from 8 to 1000, with a mean of 146 andmedian of 60. Over 70 % of ELCs have students live on campus in a single residence hall,further fostering community. More than 70 % of ELCs also have students take one or morecommon class. Tutoring/mentoring was the activity ELC student participated in the most hoursper semester or quarter, followed by academic coaching and social events.Among example goals provided in the survey, building peer relationships was selected by nearlyevery respondent. Improving academic success, increasing retention, increasing connection tocampus, and helping with the transition to college were all selected by more than 80 % of therespondents.The most commonly used evaluation methods used were retention, surveys, and GPA. Surveysare the only commonly employed technique that can provide feedback concerning programcomponents and are better suited for directing program improvement efforts. Retentionestimates--after one year in an ELC--ranged from 33 to 100 %, with a mean of 82.6 % andmedian of 85. Most ELCs had high retention rates and, thus, are likely increasing theirinstitution’s 6-year graduation rate; however, the presence of 6 low retention programs indicatesthat ELCs are not a miracle cure. Scenarios exist where ELCs are not able to produce highretention.At least 90 % of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed that ELC participants, uponcompleting of the program: had strong peer relationships, interacted with each other outside ofclass, were satisfied with their college experience, felt like a member of a community, were ableto easily transition from high school to college, and studied together. Similarly, at least 90 % ofrespondents agreed or strongly agreed that their ELC provided the tools needed to enhancestudent: study skills, adjustment to college, and knowledge of campus activities and resources.Analysis of the most common words used in responses to open ended questions indicated thatcommunity is a commonly perceived student benefit of ELCs. The benefit to the institutionshosting ELC is commonly perceived to be retention, recruitment, and community. The mostcommonly employed incentives to join ELCs are better housing, events, and tutoring. Only 37coordinators provided budget information. Amounts varied widely, but many were rather low.Statistical comparisons were unable to identify any significant factors explaining retentionvariation among programs limited to freshmen. The common dorm was the only factor that wasanywhere close to being significant (p = 0.118).Future research can focus on identifying effective program components, e.g., types of socialevents, ways to incorporate tutoring, advising and mentoring, housing situations. Relationshipsbetween budget, size, and effectiveness could also be explored. Finally, for those programs withbudgets, expenditure categories could be identified.

Everett, J. W., & Flynn, M. A. (2013, June), Engineering Learning Communities – USA National Survey 2012 Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19528

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