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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Column: Large lectures are no luxury

    I have officially mastered the art of multitasking in my biology lecture: listening and taking notes on DNA translation while managing to sneak in a few social media checks. I even half-mindedly engage in my neighbor’s endeavors to conquer the PC Mario Kart racing game.

    As one student in a sea of 200 others, my opinion or participation in class does not have much impact. The professor and teaching assistants do not even know me by name, and, essentially, my presence isn’t needed nor is it missed. While large lectures are inevitable, and perhaps at times efficient in ensuring that all who need to take the course have the opportunity to do so, have universities reached a point in which class sizes are too large for necessary comprehension?

    Large lectures are less than beneficial for a few reasons. To begin with, some of the lecture classes offered have an ungodly number of students enrolled. The A offers classes that house 15 to 1000+ students, with figures in-between. I personally hate trying to concentrate and learn in a cramped lecture pod with hundreds of other people who are nothing but mere distractions.

    Perhaps the most important issue with large undergraduate lecture courses is the lack of personalization and attention they give to students. If anyone has shared my experience with lecture courses, it typically involves the same six people participating in the front row while everyone else remains distant and unengaged; their presence is not noticed, valued or appreciated. While  students can learn if they wish, it is much more difficult to do so when one is not held to any standards in the classroom, such as actively participating or even showing up to class.

    Unlike large lectures, small discussions allow for one-on-one interaction with professors, and your opinions, thoughts, questions or concerns are actually taken into consideration.

    The difference in personalization between large and small lectures is that I go from “the short girl in the pink dress behind the tall guy in Row 38” to “Emilee.” This may not seem like a big deal, but I would much rather be called by my name. And having an opinion that actually matters to my professor is a serious bonus.

    It is not beneficial or fair to allow one teacher to instruct crucial materials to hundreds of students. It is not beneficial or fair to cram hundreds of students into one room and pretend they are receiving the same quality of education as they would in a smaller class. It is not beneficial or fair to expect me to learn the material needed for my major efficiently when I am not given the same opportunity to engage as I would in a smaller class. I, and my parents, are spending a killing so I can receive a quality education that will benefit my future.

    The university works for the students, not vice versa. We spend a substantial amount of money on education at the UA, and in return, we expect programs that will allow us to learn what is needed to succeed in our majors. Outrageously large lectures are shortcuts and are sly ways to cheat kids out of what they deserve in an education.

    However, according to Rick Sears, associate director of UA enrollment research, the university has valid reasons for offering large classes.

    “The large courses are generally a solution to ensure plenty of seat availability to help students graduate in as timely a manner as possible,” Sears said.

    Sears noted that the university is making strides in lowering the number of undergraduate lecture courses with large class sizes, despite opinions or ideas that support the contrary.

    The research data for UA concludes that large classroom sizes are on a slow downward trend. The fall 2013 data shows that class sizes ranging between 50-99 students decreased from fall 2012’s 340 classes to 296 classes in 2013. Likewise, classes with over 100 students decreased from 291 in fall 2012 to 274 in fall 2013.

    While the efforts to minimize large classroom sizes appear promising, I am not entirely convinced. It is one thing to reduce the number of large courses, but which classes are being reduced in size? I would definitely take abundantly large general education classes that are essentially for enjoyment and well-roundedness over huge core major courses that could prove detrimental for succeeding in future classes.

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    Emilee Hoopes is a molecular & cellular biology sophomore. Follow her on Twitter.

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