Monday, November 26, 2007

College class sizes are growing. What's being done about it?

I found this article on The Boston Globe’s website yesterday and thought it interesting. It’s a well-written article and it’s too long to summarize all the components of it, but it’s basically about the growing class sizes of institutions of higher education, and what is being done to continuously foster meaningful learning even with enormous classes.

The University of Colorado is used as examples of growing class sizes in this article. I thought some of my classes here at Northeastern were large, but I was blown away by the class sizes of Colorado. At Colorado, one of the chemistry classes is so huge, that the only place where all the students can take the final at once is at Colorado’s basketball arena, the Coors Event Center. There are 33 classes with 400 or more students, and three of the courses offered have over 1,200 students.

The article mentions that there are currently over 18 million college students in America, and the numbers are projected to grow as time goes on, which I think is fantastic. The only drawback is larger classes, but new technology is being invented to help combat students getting lost in the crowd.

One interesting piece of technology is a device called a “clicker,” which is a handheld voting device now being used on more than 700 campuses across the nation. With the use of the device, professors can stop a class mid-lecture and pose multiple choice questions to the students. If the class does well, the professor moves on. If the class doesn’t do well, he or she can stop and review the material the students are struggling with.

I don’t agree with large classes sizes in general, but at some colleges it's inevitable because colleges have to schedule large classes in order for all students to be able to complete their coursework, especially for the introductory courses. If some classes have to be large, then it is good to see that something is being done to help professors stay a little bit more connected with their students, and to help those who may get lost in the crowd.

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