Why take “Introduction to the College Experience?”

Online Learning

My question is why everything have to be done online?

The short answer is “behavior.” You don’t NEED to do things online, but if you don’t have that behavior and it is an expectation in the rest of your academic career, then I would have failed by not giving you the opportunity to practice while you are in this class.

Content, as we talked about on the first day, is delivered online. We will be practicing using Connect, LearnSmart and SmartBook in addition to BlackBoard. Many of the classes you will take will have these components and you will be expected to have a level of comfort using them. Your other classes will be diving into the content. We will actually make sure that you know how to use the tools.

And why cannot we bring back traditional way of learning back in school?

I am not sure there is a reason why we couldn’t bring back the “traditional” way of learning back in school. But I am not sure whose tradition we would be talking about. What might seem traditional way of learning to you my be vanguard to me.

I think we shouldn’t abandon tradition for the sake of thing that are new. But I think the measure we should use is that of effectiveness. Teaching/learning in school should be about about becoming more effective in how we learn and teach.

We could make the same demands of other professions. We could go back to a more traditional form or medicine and amputate limbs or apply leaches to let the bad blood out. But our understanding of the human body and the human mind was changed and developed over time so we probably won’t do that.

How is this class important to me?

You will need to decide that for yourself. The good thing about this class is that I will give you the chance to decide for yourself about what you think you need to get from this class, so you grow your ability to direct your own learning.

In terms of your comments about whether or not you need this class. I can honestly say that I don’t know what you need. I don’t know you that well and I am teaching skills you might already have and you could teach me something about them. But the college has decided that this is a good course and one that students need to take in order to prepare them for greater success as they pass through the college. Most student tell me that they learned more in my class that they thought. You have decided to attend PBSC and you are in my class. You are going to have to trust that we know what we are doing. Ask questions along the way and I am sure there will be things you can learn, people you will meet and skills you will acquire or refine. I know that I learn new things about this course every semester.

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My motivations, Connect, LearnSmart and SmartBook

 

What motivates you to continue to teach this type of class?

That is an excellent question. Sometimes it is difficult for me to stay motivated when teaching this kind of class. But this class presents a lot of challenges in the form of problems that need to be solved. I like solving problems and that is what motivates me.

How do you come up with the material to grade?

Another great question.  I am fortunate that I have been doing this job for awhile and I have a number of activities and lessons that have worked with students in the past. I also have access to technology like Connect, LearnSmart and SmartBook. Those free me up to do more teaching in class and less of the review for the reading that students should have done.

What if someone in the group don’t turn my assignments in?

Well, first of all, you should be responsible to turn in your work and using BlackBoard and Connect, combined with the fact that you know when things are due, that you should be able to hand your work in on time.  If there is ever a reason when you need to rely on a fellow student, choose wisely

More Opening Week Questions

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What will students find motivating about this course?

I am never sure how to answer a question like this. Since I think all motivation is internal, I don’t know what experiences will cause students to resonate. Frankly, some students won’t be motivated by the course. These are typically the kinds of students who want to know if what I am saying will be on a test, ask how many points something is worth etc.

On the other hand, I do a lot of discussion. I do a lot of activities. You will be working in groups; the way I do it, people have told me that they like it. They like the skills I am teaching. So my honest answer is that I am not sure what you might find motivating. Remember that you bring that to the table too.

What is unique about the course?

The reference number. The make-up of the students. I am not sure what you are asking here. You want to know if I teach it differently than other instructors, probably. I am not sure what others do. I can tell you that I don’t rely on lots of quizzes or tests. I do rely on assignments and the effort you put into them. I rely on you bringing your authentic self into the classroom to engage with what we are doing, whatever that is. I’ll try and make it worth your while.

 

Will there be a curve?

I will throw a few curves, yes. If you are talking to me about grading on a curve then, no. I know of NO ONE who grades on an actual curve. That would be 3% A, 24%-B, 39%-C. 24%-D and 3% F, with grades starting with the highest score. That seems like a silly and meaningless competition among classmates who need to collaborate more than compete.

Will there be extra credit?

Why should there be extra-credit? Why not do the things I asked in the first place?

Are groups assigned for projects and presentations?

Groups are assigned. Selected by you and your fellow students.

Do we have to use Sketchnotes?

Yes. You will all be trying Sketchnotes.

New Qestions About Learning from New Students

too much tech

Question: Aren’t most college classes geared towards correct answers just like middle/high school?

Answer: No. The difference between college and K12 is like the difference between the K12 school cafeteria and working in a restaurant. In in the cafeteria, you show up with your tray and expect to have mediocre food plopped upon it. You’ll complain, but wind up eating it anyway. In college, the chef calls you into the kitchen and says, “You are working at this station and you will need these tools and skills to prepare this food, and it better be GOOD.”  The higher you go in education, the more is this is true.

In my experience, schools focus on getting the correct answers to limited questions. They rarely ask students to come up with questions. Often the reason that school is considered “boring” by many students is that no really important questions are asked and none of the answers seem to connect to things that people care about.

If you think about it, most of the really important things we learn in life are done outside of a classroom. Correct answers come with experience, failure and demonstrations. Whether we are falling in love, making a cheese cake or learning to drive a car, we know we are getting it right because we had to do something to get there. We had to perform and not just with little tiny facts on multiple choice tests. And yet schools and education has been reduced down to passing one or two tests.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in correct answers sometimes, but I am careful about the things which cause me to feel that I am “right.” If I am right about something, I lose my curiosity about it. I stop looking for answers. If I am curious and skeptical and I have just a little bit of humility, I am able to know, and I mean really know, just a little more everyday. Curiosity welcomes good answers because they always bring 3 more good questions with them to the party.

What’s a Class Called “Introduction to the College Experience” About?

confused-freshman

At the beginning of the semester I have lots of students wander in to my classes because they were told that the had to take Introduction to the College Experience. Many of them are recently graduated high school students and some of them are returning after working, raising kids or a stint in the military. On the first day of the semester I like to ask them why they signed up for this class.

At my college, Palm Beach State College, (www.palmbeachstate.edu), the course is required and that is the main reason why students wind up there, but there are lots of reasons why a course like this would help many students and a good reason why so many colleges require it for incoming students.

Orientation:

Students need to know how to interact with the college system. Colleges and universities have their own vocabularies and ways of approaching credits and grades and degrees and certifications.  Students who have a chance to understand what those things are and how to use them will likely make better use of the college or university than those who have to find things out by wandering campus and figuring it out.

Support:

Many colleges and universities have greatly increased their support systems to ensure greater student success. Most colleges have student learning centers, career offices, disability support services, writing centers, testing centers and expanded library services. Learning about these supports and practice using them can mean the difference between staying in school or dropping out.  These supports help students find jobs while attending school, provide tutoring services or accommodate learning needs that students have.

Planning:

Good Intro courses help students plan.  They help students select a career and/or major. This is increasingly important as states tighten funding for classes and programs that they consider essential and non-essential.  Frankly, states don’t want to fund courses that don’t lead to a degree or specific certification. Under these circumstances, college students are not encouraged to explore their interests in the courses they take, but rather earn a degree as quickly as possible.

They also help them with an educational plan so they find and schedule the courses they need.  This helps them look at program requirements and prerequisites needed to complete or transfer or prepare them in some other way.

Learning About Learning:

Good Intro or First Year Experience courses help student learn about learning. We stop teaching kids how to read in about 3rd grade and after that we expect them to learn by reading. The methods teachers and professors us go largely examined by students.  Most of my students have never been challenged to think about their thinking (known as “metacognition“). In a good Intro course, students learn about how to process information and which modes of learning are more effective for them to gain knowledge and skills.