Learning College

A Rich History

Learning College Background

The learning college movement began in the early 1990's, when community colleges decided to enrich their student and teaching-centered values with learning-centered values. According to Terry O'Banion, the learning college concept places learning first and provides educational experiences for learners anyway, anyplace, anytime.  In January 2000, the League for Innovation in the Community College was awarded a grant to fund the The Learning College Project. The League invited community colleges from across the nation to participate. Eventually twelve colleges were selected as Vanguard Learning Colleges. The project enabled these colleges to collaborate and help fulfill their commitment to learning centered education.*

*Source: https://www.league.org/projects


Estrella Mountain Embarks on the Journey

During the spring of 2007, Estrella Mountain began a transition from a culture driven by full-time student equivalent (FTSE) growth to a culture based more on learning as the core driver in decision making processes. Labeled a Learning College Journey, emphasis was placed on changing the campus culture to place learning at the core of all programs, procedures and processes. Goals included:

  • strengthening of college planning efforts
  • increasing collaboration among divisions and departments
  • increasing participation in college initiatives and planning processes
  • increasing employee awareness about their role in student learning.

The details of the journey are located in the document Our Learning College Journey: A Detailed Account 2007 - Current (upper right section of this page.)


Highlights (2007-2016)

Early attempts at organizational change began around conversations and the development of a Title V Grant - Strengthening Hispanic Institutions. The title V grant was received in 2008 and significant initiatives have been developed and institutionalized as a result of grant funding:

  • Day of Learning: Estrella Mountain launched an annual "Day of Learning", which brought together facilitators and best of practices for learning. Day of Learning sessions are held throughout the day in the form of presentations, workshops, and forums developed and facilitated by Estrella Mountain faculty and staff.
  • Campus Discussions: The college holds several campus discussions about what it means to be a Learning College. One of the first campus discussion sponsored a visit from Dr. Cynthia Wilson, Vice President for Learning at the League for Innovation in the Community College.
  • President's Community Advisory Council: The first President's Community Advisory Council was formed with West Valley community members to gain insight and guidance regarding trends, educational opportunities, strategic directions, and collaborative program efforts. 
  • Collegial Meetings: An effort to foster a collegial atmosphere surrounding the Learning College initiative was launched during summer 2008. A committee of faculty representatives from each division, along with several administrators worked together on how Estrella Mountain could increase student retention.
  • Learning College Summits: In 2008, EMCC team members attended the League for Innovation Learning College Summit in Overland Park, Kansas, and focused their research on five main areas: 1) Academic Early Alert, 2) Addressing Incoming Students, 3) Campus-wide Student Engagement, 4) Developmental Education, and 5) Pedagogy. EMCC continues to send teams to Learning College Summits, including summer summits in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
  • College Evaluations: The College conducted an in-depth evaluation of college planning processes in the initial stages of the transition. Additional evaluations occur at regular intervals to assess the progress of our strategies and programs.
  • Accreditation Visit: During spring 2009, the college began preparation for an accreditation visit in fall 2011. As a result of the hard work and efforts of employees, Estrella Mountain received a 10-year re-accreditation approval from HLC. The approval was announced in April 2012.
  • Program Reviews: EMCC is in the process of completing more than 25 program reviews with an increased emphasis on learning. The college continues to evaluate course prerequisites to ensure student success is a priority.
  • Student Success Measures: Utilizing best practices and current research, Estrella Mountain implemented a no late registration policy and added late-start classes. From pilot programs, the college has also implemented mandatory orientation, testing and placement for students.
  • I Will Graduate / Student Success Fair: Started in 2013 to celebrate student success, focus on graduation goals, and meet students "right where they are", the 2-day annual event brings all campus divisions and a transfer fair together into a gamification event for students. Using a "passport", students receive personalized information from the areas they choose to visit, earn stamps in their passport, and receive an "I Will Graduate" tshirt by completing all passport zones. The event was designed by combining research from Vincent Tinto, Uri Treisman, Terry O'Banion, Kay McClenney, and Gail Matthews. Feedback from students and employees is utilized every year to improve and refine the event. The "I Will Graduate" messaging is utilized in smaller activities throughout the year, on marketing materials, by faculty with their classes and, by employees during interactions with students.

Ongoing Initiatives:

  • Continual evaluation of the Vision, Mission and Core Values statements as they relate to the Maricopa Community College Governing Board.
  • Investing significant effort into the improvement of student learning outcomes. EMCC is committed to aligning resources to strategies that have the greatest impact on learning.
  • Expanding employee development and recognition programs to include a restructuring that identifies full-time leadership for employee development and recognition initiatives.

EMCC remains committed to continually asking “How does this impact learning? How do we know?"