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Getting Freshmen To Make The Connection Between Courses Through Integrative Learning Blocks (Il Bs)

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.316.1 - 5.316.6



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Hisham Alnajjar

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Session 3653

Getting Freshmen to make the Connection between Courses through Integrative Learning Blocks (ILBs) Hisham Alnajjar Electrical & Computer Engineering, College of Engineering University of Hartford


The College of Engineering faculty worked specifically on revising the freshman courses to include team-based problem solving and experience in design methodology. In 1997 the University of Hartford launched a pilot program that created seven Freshman Interest Groups (FIGs)-a pairing or clustering of courses in which a group of 20-plus students take two or three courses together. The goal was to get faculty to cooperate on the shared outcomes between the clustered (FIGed) courses, which are called “Integrative Learning Blocks (ILBs)”. The idea was very successful as far as students’ performance, interest, and their GPA. In 1998 the College of Engineering (COE) had a pilot FIG, involving an introductory engineering course and a writing course. Recently, the COE received a significant grant from the NSF for “Integrating Engineering Design with Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences” where the experience gained from the pilot FIG comes in very handy. This paper is to explain the procedure of the FIG and the ILBs, assess their effectiveness, reflect on the experience and offer other institutions a picture of what goes on in such an environment.


The University of Hartford is an independent, mid-size comprehensive, primarily undergraduate institution of about 6500 students (full & part-time). It is complex for its size with seven baccalaureate schools/colleges—arts and science, engineering, business, engineering technology, and education/nursing/health professions, an art school, and a school of music/dance/drama—as well as 2 two-year colleges. The COE enrolls about 400 undergraduate students on full-time or part-time basis and offers ABET accredited programs in Civil, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering. It also offers a practice- oriented Masters program in various disciplines.

The University’s Strategic Plan (1996) identifies the improvement of the First-Year Experience as one of the institution’s four highest priority items. As part of the effort by the University of Hartford to improve the freshman experience across campus, faculty from the COE as well as those from four other collegiate units participated in a two-year initiative sponsored by a NSF Institutional Reform grant. The goal was to improve students’ learning in the first-year courses across the university through the use of

Alnajjar, H. (2000, June), Getting Freshmen To Make The Connection Between Courses Through Integrative Learning Blocks (Il Bs) Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8407

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