Linking courses: OSU-Cascades changes how subjects are taught

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Lauren Hamlin
Tobey Veenstra
The Broadside

It’s a new way of learning—one where students take a group of courses taught by a team of instructors each term. Linked courses are a type of learning community introduced this fall at Oregon State University-Cascades.

A task force consisting of faculty and administration members from both OSU-Cascades and Central Oregon Community College designed the learning community to help freshmen students become involved with OSU-Cascades.

“We were looking for a way for COCC students to feel more integrated with OSU,” said OSU-Cascades Director of Enrollment Services Jane Reynolds. “The reason the task force started was partly to build a tighter partnership between OSU-Cascades and COCC.”

The current learning community includes an English Composition course, a Health and Wellness course and an Introduction to OSU-Cascades and Freshman Seminar course, totaling eight credits.

Plans for future terms include another group of linked courses as well as one group focusing on Latino culture and another on Native American culture, according to Task Force Member and Dean of Instruction Michael Holtzclaw.

Since the Winter and Spring term linked course groups are in their finalizing stage, task force members “don’t know what they will be right now,”
said Reynolds. Despite this ambiguity, the task force hopes eventually to introduce another type of learning community: a coordinated study  learning community. Coordinated studies are courses taught by two to three instructors and combine two subjects with one common theme, such
as biology and sociology or mathematics and science.

“Done correctly, students start realizing disciplines are more similar than not,” said COCC Vice President for Instruction Karin Hilgersom about Coordinated studies courses. “And because instructors are working with another faculty member, they’re creating a dynamic.”

Since these learning communities require more maintenance, the task force is still contemplating whether to introduce them to COCC.

“We need to be careful,” said Hilgersom. “Learning communities can be more expensive if they are not structured carefully. Cost depends on how
many students enroll, just like with any course that runs below the target enrollment.”

As for the future of linked courses at OSU-Cascades, that depends on the success of the one currently underway.

“We anticipate we’ll be offering learning community next year, maybe with different classes,” said Reynolds. “What we’re ultimately hoping for is
that freshman students get to know each other and will come back … We won’t know how successful we are until next year.”

Lauren Hamlin can be reached at lhamlin@cocc.edu.
Tobey Veenstra can be reached at tveenstra@cocc.edu.

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