Asee peer logo

Integrated Learning In Freshman Engineering: The Themed Learning Community

Download Paper |


2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Learning as a Community

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.747.1 - 14.747.13



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Janet Meyer Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis


Patrick Gee Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis

visit author page

Patrick Gee, MSME, is a Lecturer in the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology, IUPUI. He is also director of the Minority Engineering Advancement Program (MEAP). Patrick has both a B.S. and an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering.

visit author page


Laura Masterson Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis

visit author page

Laura Masterson is a joint advisor in the School of Engineering and Technology, IUPUI and University College at IUPUI. She has a B.S. degree from the University of Notre Dame and a Masters Degree in Higher Education from Indiana University.

visit author page

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Integrated Learning in Freshman Engineering: The Themed Learning Community


The first year of engineering study at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) is the time when we see the greatest exodus of students. Thus we who work with first year students are constantly looking for strategies that will captivate, motivate, and retain students in our engineering programs. Recently IUPUI began supporting the development of what are called themed learning communities (TLCs). Themed learning communities are linked sets of courses often designed with a common theme or focus area that have been designed to attract the interest of a particular set of students. In the fall of 2007 we inaugurated two engineering TLCs. Both TLCs linked our two first semester engineering courses; additionally, in one we also linked our public speaking course and to the other we linked English composition. The overarching theme of both TLCs was the “Engineer of 2020: A national vision.” We continued the TLC model in the fall of 2008.

This paper begins by describing the IUPUI campus culture that supported the development of our TLCs. Further we explore some of the organizational challenges that we faced in getting started. We continue by describing some of the interdisciplinary and integrative activities that took place. We also talk about our theme and how we used the theme to broaden students’ understanding of engineering and its role in the modern world.

We and our students reaped both expected and unanticipated gains from our experiences. In our paper we present quantitative and qualitative data regarding student reactions to being in a themed learning community. Additionally, we compare the retention data of non-TLC students to the TLC students to determine whether participation in a TLC did make a difference in overall retention of students in our engineering program. Finally we discuss what we did that worked well, what we won’t do again, and why we want to continue having themed learning communities.


Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) is an urban college campus. IUPUI has traditionally been known as a commuter campus catering to the non-traditional student population, but in the last several years, the campus demographics have started to change. The majority of students are still commuters, with only 23% of students living on campus. However the age of incoming first-year students has dropped rapidly, with students under the age of 25 comprising 98% of our student population in Fall 20087. Most students come to IUPUI from within the state of Indiana and over half (56%) are first generation college students7.

Meyer, J., & Gee, P., & Masterson, L. (2009, June), Integrated Learning In Freshman Engineering: The Themed Learning Community Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5259

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2009 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015