Residence learning communities at Canadian Comprehensive Institutions

  • Justine Hobbins University of Guelph
  • Mildred Eisenbach University of Guelph
  • Kerry L Ritchie University of Guelph
  • Shoshanah Jacobs University of Guelph
Keywords: Higher Education, Residence, Learning Community


Learning Community’ is a ubiquitous term in higher education, and has been used in reference to a variety of programs, ranging from interdisciplinary group projects to on-line learning courses, and even the university campus as a whole.[1] More specifically, residence learning communities (RLCs) refer to intentional groupings of students living together in a dedicated residence space with shared interests (academic and /or non-academic), supported by various programming and support systems.

Several studies have demonstrated positive impact of RLCs on student academic outcomes in the US.  However, this work is often limited in experimental design (lack of control group), or dependent on variables that are not relevant to Canadian context (eg: degree of faculty involvement). At the University of Guelph (UoG) in particular, there are 21 RLCs offered across campus for approximately 800 first-year undergraduate students. At other Canadian institutions, the number of RLCs available to students continues to rise.  However, objective data to support their impact on academic outcomes, and evidence-based best practices are non-existent in a Canadian context.

            In this report, the value of RLCs will be discussed with supporting literature in the US context. This will be followed with a categorical principle component analysis (CATPCA) of over 80 RLC offerings at 9 Canadian Comprehensive Institutions. The CATPCA will allow us to place UoG RLCs in the context of RLCs at these 8 other Canadian Comprehensive Institutions. In doing so, we will establish UoG as an appropriate case study to ultimately be able to extend the findings of the proposed RLC impact research to these institutions. The paper will conclude with a discussion of the research teams’ next steps to quantify the impact of UoG RLC participation on student academic performance.

[1] Anne Goodsell Love, “The growth and current state of learning communities in higher education,” New Directions for teaching and learning 132 (2012), 5-18.