Success = building and connecting bridges

Milton Cox, director emeritus of the Center for the Enhancement of Learning, Teaching and University Assessment at Miami University, listens during a discussion while on a visit to YSU.

Milton Cox knows that communications, especially from one college or department to another, is not a strong point for most universities.

“Higher education is the last place that we would think of finding a community,” said Cox, director emeritus of the Center for the Enhancement of Learning, Teaching, and University Assessment at Miami University of Ohio.

“There is no bridge connecting departments and various places in a university. Instead, it’s more like parallel bridges connecting the same locations, and in some places bridges do not exist.”

Cox, who founded and directs the annual International Lilly Conference on College Teaching, spoke at YSU earlier this semester on how universities can better build and connect those bridges via Faculty Learning Communities – small groups of students, faculty and staff from various academic disciplines that meet regularly to share teaching and learning ideas.

“We wanted to get away from ‘the sage on the stage’ and become ‘the guide on the side,’” he said at the presentation in Kilcawley Center. The YSU office of the Provost, the offices of Assessment and General Education, and the faculty development program sponsored the presentation.

Cox said the concept of learning communities began in the 1920s as isolationism among academic departments in higher education grew. Members of an FLC share the same interest in a topic or have a personality trait in common.

Miami University adopted the FLC idea campus-wide in 1979, mostly involving freshmen and sophomore undergraduates and their faculty and staff. About 54 percent of faculty and 52 percent of department chairs at Miami have participated in FLCs, and the university has reported iproved retention, intellectual development and grades, Cox said.

Miami has also developed an assessment system for the programs that looks at the development of the members, student and institutional learning, and component engagement. Cox said the Ohio Board of Regents provides grants to encourage the use of FLCs and that six other universities have added the program.

For more information on FLCs, visit

Story by Harry Evans