UHV officials examine learning communities to develop plan to improve education

Sept. 1, 2012 at 4:01 a.m.

After getting feedback from a variety of sources, University of Houston-Victoria leaders recently chose a topic that will guide the development of a plan for the university's upcoming accreditation review.

The topic chosen for UHV's Quality Enhancement Plan centers on improving student learning through the use of learning communities, groups of students who share a common academic experience.

The plan, a blueprint describing how the university will address improving student education, is a required component of the spring 2014 accreditation review by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The plan's topic chosen is "Enhanced Engagement Through Learning Communities."

"Learning communities can help with student engagement which, in turn, helps with student retention," said Jeffrey Cass, UHV provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Based in Atlanta, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges covers an 11-state region from Virginia to Texas and oversees the accreditation of all universities and colleges, public and private. Although UHV already is accredited by SACS, member institutions must go through periodic reviews that show the university is continuing to provide quality education consistent with the association's guidelines. UHV's last association visit was in 2003.

Earlier this year, community members and UHV alumni, faculty, staff and students were invited to take surveys about themes for improving student learning at the university. The surveys followed a series of focus group meetings. This input helped university leaders choose a Quality Enhancement Plan topic.

"Learning committees that we have studied have been highly effective at increasing student engagement, which is one of the chief findings we had in the surveys and focus groups," Associate Provost Uppinder Mehan said.

During the summer, Mehan and Lawrence Rossow, associate vice president for the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, researched other universities' learning communities and literature on the topic.

"What we found is learning communities can take on a variety of forms," Mehan said. "But what is common is they have an academic component paired with a residential component."



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