The other day I arrived at the classroom a few minutes early to prepare for my lecture and, as usual, there were a few early arriving students present. As I busied myself transferring some example programming code onto the instructor’s machine, I couldn’t help but notice the heated discussion coming from the corner where two students were seated. The topic of their conversation?…politics!
The scenario above illustrates one of the many advantages of attending classes residentially at a brick-and-mortar institution — the impromptu discussion of interesting topics. At our university we have a student’s common area, an academic resource center, and an inviting patio outdoors… all where students routinely gather for conversation, a snack, or to do homework. Many times I have walked by a group of students when I am asked to come over to help them understand a topic they have been working on and didn’t quite “get”. Oftentimes you can hear laughter, or heated arguments, or see students huddled in muted conversations, or simply watching a documentary on the television. As new students, everyone is a stranger. In a very short time, these become casual acquaintances as students nod and say hello to those they have seen in their classroom. Several of these acquaintances build into true friendships that may last a lifetime. The academic resource center offers activities such as an open math lab and/or writing lab where students can not only work on homework — alone or in groups — but get knowledgeable help from actual subject matter experts.
This physical presence also has benefits in the classroom. When teaching in a classroom setting, I carefully watch my students when delivering key points, or concepts, that I want them to understand. Alertness and nodding are key indicators I am able to observe when students are grasping the ideas. However, furrowed brows, frowning, or quizzical expressions indicate that I need to try another tack or explain in more detail. These are valuable nuances that a professor is able to use to dynamically alter her, or his, lecture. There also are the students that ask the questions, or remind me to slow down at times. There is true dialogue happening between students and instructor, and among students. Beyond blurting out questions, replies, and follow-up questions, students readily help each other in a classroom setting. How often have you seen students lean to someone next to them to ask a question? This immediate feedback to a question is tremendously effective at cognitive reasoning. Several of our programs require a lab experience that can only be accomplished via a residential course. There are several studies indicating the importance of experiential learning, and students really enjoy it.
A physical campus for residential classes also can be a pillar in the community that will provide valuable experiences — for the students, the community, the faculty, and the staff. Campuses have “community service” days in which outreach teams go out into the community, or bring the community to the campus, volunteering time, knowledge, and effort to build stronger relationships, better the community, and enrich everyone’s life that is involved. An important aspect of learning is “hands on” application, or practical experience. What better way for students to gain valuable experience than to help a community member, group, or business (non-profit or for-profit) benefit from volunteer work in the particular discipline of the students’ program of study.
More Than Education
Most campuses also have someone responsible for student services. They are there to help students find daycare for their children, find appropriate transportation, or arrange for tutoring. Financial aid questions? There is an entire team on campus to answer questions and help students prepare applications for grants, loans, and scholarships. Every campus will also have a career services person, or team. Beyond finding and qualifying jobs for students — current and alumni — they conduct informative workshops. I have participated in mock interviews with students and “Dress for Success” fashion shows. I have also visited sponsored career fairs that were held on our campus and included the entire community.
What About Online?
There are equally compelling advantages to online coursework, of which I will mention only a few. For example, the lack of proximity to a physical campus should not preclude anyone from furthering their education. Perhaps family/work issues do not offer the opportunity to take a particular course on campus. The Internet and use of Web 2.0 technologies has made the current online courses infinitely better than the correspondence courses of old. For the lifelong learner, which we should all be, the new Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a tremendous resource for learning and I have used them to augment my residential lectures. Combing the two platforms presents students with the advantages of both!
To learn more about furthering your education at Broadview University, call 1-877-480-3335 today, or send us a request for more information.