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MCC Shares Successful Model for Learning Communities Courses

[Wednesday, April 5, 2017]


Photo on left: MCC students in the Doping, Sexting and Dangerous Music learning community course examine the pros and cons of rap music and heavy metal, such as how these genres violate social values (danger to society) versus free speech/artistic freedom. Pictured are, from left, Madeline Venezia, Bryan Hooghkirk and Karen Castaneda.

Photo on right: MCC instructors Jay Geller and Kate Midday (standing) talk to students about their writing assignment during the Laugh Your Ass Off learning community course. Pictured are students, Joseph Castronovo, Paige Schnulle, and Logan Card.

McHenry County College continues to be a model for other community colleges in offering learning communities (“Twofers”) classes—a new way of engaging students that combines two classes—giving students an opportunity to make connections between subjects, interact more with students and teachers and earn twice the credits.

This year, MCC has been selected to host this year’s Consortium for Illinois Learning Communities Conference (CILC) on April 14.

Now in their 16th year at MCC, the learning communities’ courses are among the most popular offerings at the college and result in a higher degree of interaction between teachers and students. Students enroll in two separate courses in one time slot, co-taught by two instructors. The first learning communities class at MCC was called “Heroes and Villains” created by philosophy instructor Jim Gould and English instructor Ted Hazelgrove. Since then, the program has grown to between six to eight learning communities per semester, for a total of 16 classes.

James Allen, executive director of CILC and an English professor at the College of DuPage, said area colleges have a high regard for MCC’s approach to offering learning communities, standing out among both community colleges and four-year universities.

“As a charter member of the CILC, we have always looked to MCC as a leader in learning communities, both for the college's considerable success over many years in designing and offering innovative learning communities and for pioneering unique integrative pedagogical approaches,” Allen said. “We've also greatly admired MCC's marketing strategies for these programs, particularly the poster designs and the “Twofer” slogan.”

According to Kate Midday, chairperson of the Learning Community program at MCC, the vigor and innovation of MCC’s program has allowed many of its faculty to present their pedagogical and practical student success--both locally at the consortium and at the National Learning Communities Conference--held annually all over the country.

“It’s a whole new way of learning that makes more sense,” Midday added. “I believe that we’ve got to change the way we reach students—the world is different. Students don’t learn in a vacuum. Students are hyperlinked to everything in their lives. They want everything instantaneously. When students are given the opportunity to see immediately what they’re learning and where it fits…it allows them to make those connections and actually apply the theory.”

One of the more popular Twofers is called Talking Dirty, which pairs a psychology class, Human Sexuality, with an Ethics class. “Students look at ethics—this concept of right and wrong and good and evil—through a specifically psychological sexual lens,” Midday said. “Students have to think of both subjects in totally different terms, and the two subjects work cohesively.”

“Our learning communities’ courses are 100 percent faculty-driven,” Midday said. “We have innovative faculty who have so many good ideas. They take the time to make classes happen. You need to have a dynamic relationship between the co-teachers to be successful, otherwise, where’s the passion?”

MCC offers eight learning communities courses for next fall. To view a listing, visit



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