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Retaining Freshman Engineering Students Through Participation In A First Year Learning Community: What Works And What Doesn't

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

FPD12 -- Novel Approaches to First Year Programs

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1242.1 - 12.1242.13



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Paper Authors


Janet Meyer Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis

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Janet Meyer, MA, is an Academic Specialist and Part-time Lecturer in the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology, IUPUI. She has an undergraduate degree in Metallurgical Engineering from Purdue University and a Masters degree in religion. She is completing a second Masters in Higher Education at Indiana University. She first developed the engineering learning communities at IUPUI in 1999 and continues to teach them.

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Nancy Lamm Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis

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Nancy Lamm, MSE, is Director of Freshman Engineering and Director of the Engineering Dual Degree Program at IUPUI. She received her B.A. in Microbiology from Indiana University in 1969. In 1983, she received her B.S., in Interdisciplinary Engineering at Purdue University at Indianapolis and received her Purdue M.S.E. degree from IUPUI in 1989. Nancy advises beginning students and transfer students when first entering engineering programs. She has been teaching freshman engineering courses and advising freshman engineering students for over twenty years.

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Joshua Smith Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis

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Joshua S. Smith, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology at Indiana University-Indianapolis and Associate Director in the Center for Urban and Multicultural Education in the School of Education. Dr. Smith offers courses in Educational Psychology in the Teacher Education Program and graduate courses in qualitative and quantitative research methods. His current research interests involve student transition from middle school to high school, and the transition to college.

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

Retaining freshman engineering students through participation in a first-year learning community: What works and what doesn’t Abstract

A common question among many educators in freshman engineering programs is what can be done in the freshman year to improve the retention of students. Freshman Engineering in the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) is no exception in the search for strategies designed to improve the success of first-year engineering students.

This study took place at IUPUI, an urban research intensive institution. The student population consists mainly of commuter students. The campus’s overall 6-year graduation rate is less than 50%. A multitude of efforts on the campus are directed towards improving the graduation rate of all students. One of the most significant of these is the learning community or first year seminar. This institution has long been a national leader in the establishment of learning communities for first-year students.

Learning communities as they exist on this campus are typically 1 credit hour courses taken by first semester freshman students. Briefly, the learning communities are designed to introduce student success skills, to acquaint students with their major area, and to build community and foster relationships among students. There is an abundance of literature in existence that supports the efficacy of learning communities. Most of these are ex post facto studies that have looked at learning communities in general and compared the retention rates and grade point averages of students who participated in a learning community with those who did not. Overwhelmingly these studies demonstrate the advantage of student participation in learning communities. There is, however, very little educational research that discusses engineering learning communities and the effect participation has on student success.

The learning community course designed for engineering students is taken by all first-year engineering majors. There are approximately 150 students enrolled in 6 sections in a typical fall semester. This study builds on our earlier study that looked at the learning community from the viewpoint of engineering seniors and graduates. Some of these results are correlated with results of the current study. The current study utilizes the rigor of educational research methodology and looks at a specific component of the learning community course as well as pre-matriculation perceptions and performance indicators. The study examines the relationships between pre- matriculation variables, first semester GPA, and study skills instruction in the learning community. Various models are analyzed to see if predictors of first semester GPA can be identified.


It has long been acknowledged that retention is a major problem at many colleges and universities. Retention issues impact institutions of higher education in a variety of areas ranging from student services through academic affairs and even recruitment of new students. Widely read popular press rankings such as US News and World Reports publish graduation rates.

Meyer, J., & Lamm, N., & Smith, J. (2007, June), Retaining Freshman Engineering Students Through Participation In A First Year Learning Community: What Works And What Doesn't Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2818

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: © 2007 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