Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

Elliott Hall, Room 200A
275 Varner Drive
Rochester, Michigan 48309-4485
(location map)
(248) 370-2751

Learning Communities

What Is a Learning Community?

A Learning Community (LC) is a cross-disciplinary, faculty-driven group of 6-12 members (which can include staff and graduate students as well) engaging in a yearlong program to promote the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). Their activities include frequent seminars and activities that provide learning, research-based development, and community building. Participants typically engage in bi-weekly seminars and retreats and present results to the campus. LCs increase faculty interest in teaching and provide an atmosphere which allows faculty to investigate new teaching methods and partner with staff and students.

These communities are designed to build collaboration and fellowship among faculty, staff, and students from across the university. A Learning Community is focused on colleagues sharing expertise with one another to enhance knowledge and improve learning for students.  For more details on the Learning Community structure and process, see the More Information link at the bottom of the page.

Call for 2018-2019 Learning Communities

In March 2018, CETL will open a call for proposals for new year-long Learning Communities. View more information on proposing and facilitating Learning Communities, and submit a proposal by Tuesday, April 3.

The Learning Communities Workshop on Tuesday, March 13 has been canceled. If you would like to discuss the proposal and process of facilitating a Learning Community, please contact CETL Director Judy Ableser (

2017-2018 Learning Communities
Supporting Students' Emotional Health
Facilitators: Cindy Carver, Teacher Development & Educational Studies ( and Katie Jostock, Communication & Journalism and Writing & Rhetoric (

This Learning Community will

  • help faculty strengthen their understanding of and response to the unique mental and emotional needs of OU students
  • establish connections among participants and campus student support services
  • apply principles discussed to interactions with students.

As mental, emotional, and learning needs of North American college students continue to rise annually and often exacerbate during the formative years of 18 and older, it is imperative for all in higher education to develop supportive interventions within the classroom to cultivate student success. Based on the discussions that occurred during CETL’s Coffee and Conversation: “Mental Health Issues: Faculty Perspective” on February 13, it appears that OU faculty are interested in learning more about what they can and should do to support students who struggle mentally and emotionally. 

Facilitator: Katie Jostock, COM and WRT,

Open to: Faculty/Staff/Grad Students

Service Learning: Design, Practice and Scholarship
Facilitator: Jess Tess-Navarro, Writing and Rhetoric (
This Learning Community will:
  • discuss pedagogy and best practices for service learning activities at OU
  • support on-going and/or initiate new service learning activities
  • strengthen overall awareness/advocacy of engagement with service learning at OU.
Service learning has been identified as one high-impact practice for teaching and learning in higher education. According to Ryan (2012), “The goal of service learning is to encourage students to apply knowledge learned in the classroom to real-world situations through volunteer work that benefits the community.” Thus, service learning connects campuses to their surrounding communities in meaningful ways and encourages students become better citizens. It has also been established as having a positive and significant impact on factors of student success, including rates of graduation and retention, student engagement, and transfer of skills (Hutcheson, 1999; Mundy &; Eyler, 2002; UMBC, 2005).

OU leadership has announced that OU seeks to become a Carnegie Classified Community Engagement institution as soon as possible. Thus, this learning community has the strong potential to aid in this effort by breaking down the existing silos, strengthening the OU service learning community across disciplines and units, and compounding our campus-community impacts via evidence-based service learning practices.

Faculty/Staff/Grad Students

Engaging the Environment
Facilitator: Jeffrey Insko, English (

This Learning Community will

  • foster critical student engagement with climate change and related environmental and social issues
  • foster faculty instructional success by gaining new competencies in teaching about climate change and the environment
  • providing a forum for sharing work, feedback and opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration.
Last year, a group of scientists officially proposed that we now live in a new geological era called “the anthropocene,” an age defined by the visible impact of human activity on the planet. Although the term and the date at which this new age begins are both contested, this epochal shift has been a topic of keen interest to humanities and social sciences scholars as well as to geologists and stratigraphers since its popularization in 2000.

The work of this Learning Community will be to discuss and explore ways of translating those commitments and concerns into practical strategies for classroom success, to share methods and materials that will enhance student learning and prepare students to reflect (and act as local and global citizens) upon this most pressing of global problems, and to create a cross-disciplinary intellectual community of active scholars dedicated to helping one another pursue their scholarly projects. In all of these ways, the group’s work will facilitate student and faculty success in becoming more socially and publicly engaged citizens and scholars. In terms of practical outcomes that contribute to student and faculty success, for instance, our group explorations will encourage the development of courses that achieve the Learning Outcomes of the University’s general education program and encourage student engagement with some of the most vital and immediate issues of our time, issues that directly affect their communities and lives.

Open to: Faculty/Staff/Grad Students


Click here to view the document with all of our past Learning Communities in one place.

More Information

More About Learning Communities and Proposals

Proposing an OU Learning Community

What is an OU Learning Community?How can the support funding be used?
What are the goals of OU Learning Communities?What is required if I want to propose an OU Learning Community?
On what kinds of topics can an OU Learning Community focus?If I am currently leading a faculty learning community, can I submit a proposal to continue the community for a second year?
What is involved in facilitating an OU Learning Community?What Learning Communities have there been in the past?

What is an OU Learning Community?
  • Active, collaborative year-long program
  • 6-12 faculty, graduate students and professional staff
    • who are interested in exploring a topic related to teaching and learning
    • who represent a variety of disciplines (cross-disciplinary interaction)
    • who are willing to meet bi-weekly to explore the topic
  • Oakland Learning Communities will be
    • led by a topic expert from OU’s faculty
    • some communities will be relevant and specific to faculty, while others will be inclusive including faculty, staff and students
Back to the top of the page.

What are the goals of OU Learning Communities?
  • Faculty collaborating with one another and staff and students to share expertise, to improve student learning and improve teaching
  • Shared inquiry about a topic of mutual interest
  • Building friendships and mentorships across disciplines
  • Introducing new knowledge into the teaching environment
  • Advance the scholarship of teaching and learning
Back to the top of the page.

On what kinds of topics can an OU Learning Community focus?
  • All groups will engage in aspects of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)
    • SoTL recognizes teaching as scholarly work and encourages members to use research to better understand and improve their own teaching practices and how such work will improve learning across the campus.
    • SoTL values the dissemination of work through such activities as presentations and scholarly articles.
Examples of topics might include:
  • problem-based learning
  • case study methods
  • mentoring undergraduate research
  • engaging students in large classes
  • effective methods for teaching adults
  • student learning through writing
  • critical thinking, service learning
  • high impact practices
  • diversity
  • leading study abroad
Back to the top of the page.

What is involved in facilitating an OU Learning Community?
  • Submit a proposal.
  • If accepted, seek membership and participation with assistance from CETL.
  • Organize regular sessions (approximately twice a month).
  • Facilitate sessions.
  • Submit a final report.
  • Share results of LC with others on campus.
Back to the top of the page.

How can the support funding be used?

Up to $1,500 is available for the following:
  • Support for books and materials related to the topic
  • Support for travel to conference on learning community topic (or to teaching and learning conference)
  • Support for travel for regional expert on the selected topic to come to OU
  • Support for other activities may be available if approved
Back to the top of the page.

What is required if I want to propose an OU Learning Community?
  • When the call opens, fill out an application. Calls normally open each winter and are due at the end of March.
  • Agree to share what you have learned and done in a campus forum.
  • Complete a final report on the results of the learning community and how funds were used.

If I am currently leading a faculty learning community, can I submit a proposal to continue the community for a second year?

Yes, a proposal can be submitted to continue a current learning community, but new objectives should be provided.