The WSU Bio 1050 Learning Community is for all students enrolled in Bio 1050 in fall and winter semesters on the main campus. The community supports students as they learn introductory biology. Students are grouped into teams of fifteen with a peer mentor to lead them. The peer mentors are paid and trained upper-level students who have learned to succeed in biology. The learning community teams sit together during lecture and also meet weekly for an hour of exciting hands-on activities to reinforce the key concepts of the course and study strategies.


The Team Meeting Schedule is set for fall 2017.


Do you want to become a peer mentor? Find out more in the Become a Peer Mentor section of this website.


¤ Why should I join as a student?

I expect all students in Bio 1050 to join a team. You should join to

  • Improve your grades and understanding of biology
  • Improve your study skills
  • Work more closely with other students in your class

Our data show that this learning community increases the pass rate of students in this course. Students with academic team experience are sought out by professional and graduate schools. Many past members and peer mentors have talked extensively about their learning community experiences on applications and at interviews.


¤ How do I join?

To join the learning community, first register for Bio 1050 in Fall or Winter semesters on the main campus of WSU. The courses that include the learning community are indicated in the WSU registration schedule.  Second, find the team that meets at a time that fits your schedule and sits where you like in the lecture hall. Third, after you register you will be able to go to Blackboard and select your team from the teams that still have spots. It sometimes takes 24 hours for your Blackboard access to go through from when you register.

You can find a list of the discussion teams and lecture seating chart here.


¤ What happens once I join?

After you join a team in Blackboard, you are not required to do anything related to the Learning Community until the semester starts in the fall. You do need to buy your course supplies before the first day of class. 

Although you do not need to do anything to prepare for class other than buy your book, a clicker and homework access, your team site in Blackboard will be active and you can start getting to know your team mates. 

If you are a new student to WSU, a peer mentor may contact you to help orient you to WSU. He or she will make sure you know how to buy your supplies before the semester starts, and will answer questions you have about life at WSU, like parking and strategies for success.


¤ What if my schedule changes?

If you sign up for the wrong team, or need to change teams, one of the peer mentors can help you. To change teams email Krystal Bakkila at You will only be able to switch into a team that still has spots. The most popular times will fill up, so you will have the most options if you sign up for the team that you want from the start. Further instructions will be posted in Blackboard.


¤ Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is the Learning Community for students like me?

Yes. The learning community is for all students in Bio 1050. I expect all students who register for Bio 1050 to sign up for a learning community team. It is for students with the lab and without the lab. It is for students who are first-semester students to those who are about to graduate.

When you are struggling, we need you to attend team meetings so the other students are challenged to explain what they know. We need you to attend when you know the material well to help the students who are struggling. Remember, a student who is struggling with one topic or course often is excelling in another. For the learning community to work, we need you to participate both when you are struggling and when you are confident.

The learning community also welcomes students of all demographics. Members represent all races and ethnicities on campus. Members include returning students and veterans, who are often older. The wonderful diversity on campus is a strength of the learning community. It can also be a challenge for students who feel different. The team meetings are designed to build communication and trust among the members of teams, so that we can leverage the advantages of diversity, while minimizing the challenges. If you have ideas for how we can serve a subpopulation better, please let a peer mentor or Dr. Myhr know.


2. What are the consequences of not signing up for a learning community team?

Everyone will sit with a team during lecture. It is possible that some students will not find a team that meets their schedule needs. Unfortunately, these students will lose out on doing the great hands-on activities that the rest of the class will be doing at their team meetings. 

If there are some students who simply cannot make a team meeting, I will set aside a team that does not meet for an hour outside of class. This team will still sit together during class in a team area, like the other teams. All teams will have communication tools on Blackboard, and students in the team with no meeting time outside of lecture will be expected to work more online than students who meet in person. Students will be able to do the online work when they are available, rather than at a set time, but will lose out on the hands-on activities and personal interactions. 

Although we have data that the learning community works for students who are part of a team that meets outside of lecture, we do not know whether students who are only on a team in lecture will have the same benefit as those who meet in addition to lecture.


¤ Support

The Bio 1050 Learning Community is supported financially by the Learning Community Programs at WSU and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS). The Learning Community is also supported in many ways by the Biological Sciences Department. The faculty coordinators are Dr. Karen Myhr, Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences ( and Dr. Robert Arking, Professor, Biological Sciences (

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