Department of Educational Administration


Document Type


Date of this Version



Published in Community College Journal of Research and Practice 39 (2015), pp 819–838. doi 10.1080/10668926.2014.911128


Copyright © 2015 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. Used by permission.


This study explores through descriptive analysis the similarities of structured group learning experiences such as first-year seminars, learning communities, orientation, success courses, and accelerated developmental education programs, in terms of their design features and implementation at community colleges. The study takes as its conceptual starting point the hypothesis put forth by Hatch and Bohlig (2013) that such cohort- or group-structured programs designed to equip students with skills, knowledge, and support networks for successful college-going, and which often go by different names, may be in fact better characterized as variations or instances of a more general type of program due to the similarities of their programmatic and curricular structure. This article explores program features beyond curricular design to consider target audience, mandatory status, reported participation rates, program duration, credit-bearing status, and the roles of involved personnel, among other features. Using data from the 2012 national administration of the Community College Institutional Survey (CCIS) and the Community College Survey of Student Engagement ([CCSSE], Center for Community College Student Engagement, 2013), we provide evidence that all five programs are indeed similar in important ways, even while revealing important dissimilarities that corroborate the need for more detailed accounting of program features noted in the literature. The findings provide baseline data for practitioners and researchers alike in their efforts to further understand why these high-impact practices work, for whom, and under what circumstances, so as to know how to deploy scarce resources.