The Itasca CC Engineering Learning Community

Document Type

Conference Presentation

Publication Date



The engineering program at Itasca Community College in northern Minnesota has developed avery successful engineering learning community. Students who start their engineering education in Itasca’s engineering learning community average 8.7 semesters to completion of their bachelor’s degree in engineering with a graduation rate of 54%.The Itasca learning community is an open admissions program with approximately 1/3 of the student body ready to start their math sequence with calculus 1, 1/3 with pre-calculus, and 1/3 at a math course below pre-calculus. Students who complete ICC’s engineering program then transfer to 4-year institutions across the nation to complete their STEM degree. The program has grown from 10 students in 1993 to 150 students in 2010.Some of the key characteristics of the engineering learning community at Itasca Community College are:* Strong K-12 Relationships – Itasca Community College has strong relationships with the regional K-12 schools to promote student interest in engineering. Examples of activities include elementary school renewable energy activities, Women in Engineering Day, Engineering Day at Itasca, JETS competition at Itasca, regional FIRST robotics training and practice competitions at Itasca, Itasca faculty mentoring high school Project Lead the Way teachers, etc.* Block Scheduling – Itasca’s engineering courses are taught in a "two-at-a-time" 8 week block class format instead of the traditional 16 week semester format. This alternative course scheduling method is successful in providing students the ability to navigate through the pre-calculus and calculus sequences at different paces than in a traditional schedule yet have the ability to complete their engineering degree in four years.* Program Assessment – Itasca engineering has developed an annual program assessment tool to provide feedback on student learning that utilizes an annual “FE” type comprehensive exam to assess the student learning in program courses and a student portfolio to demonstrate their attainment of the programs “ABET-based” learning outcomes at the end of their second year.* Learning Community – Itasca has developed a very strong learning community where students and faculty develop strong working relationships that enhance the student learning in the classroom and improve student retention rates.The authors will present a detailed description of the learning community at Itasca CC and compare the success of Itasca students with student from other institutions across the U.S.The wider application of the Itasca Engineering learning community model is a model that is transferrable to other institutions and can serve to increase the number of students in the U.S.who are completing an engineering degree. The model can be fully adopted or components of the model can be used to build or improve the learning community at other institutions.


Integrated Engineering

Publication Title

2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition