Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How demanding is your college experience?

The New York Times is reporting a study by two sociologists that claims half the students surveyed took no classes requiring 20 pages of writing in the previous semester, and a third took no courses that required as much as 40 pages of reading a week. How does this compare to your college experience?





http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/01/24/does-college-make-you-smarter?src=me&ref=general

19 comments:

AlyssaSalyers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AlyssaSalyers said...

With the exception of one class, my classes at Marshall University have required plenty of reading and writing assignments. Perhaps this is directly related to my field of study, although most of my classes outside of my major have also required substantial amounts of reading and writing.

In fact, there have been times when I felt quite overwhelmed with the amount of reading, writing and research expected of me. I believe that having too many of these kinds of assignments at the same time can be detrimental to education. Time management is not helpful when there is simply not enough time available. When there is not enough time to do justice to every assignment, my grades suffer and I do not learn everything I am meant to learn. Of course, I realize there is no solution to this problem. In a college setting there is no way to regulate the workload given by so many different instructors.

Since this is the first class I have taken from you, I have little basis for an opinion. However, to date, I believe the reading and writing assignments in this class have been sufficient.

The one weak class I was enrolled in was a source of great disappointment. This professor was almost constantly late or absent and never bothered to notify us beyond a note tacked to the door. It was especially frustrating to drive to class at the break of dawn, in inclement weather only to find the class canceled. In addition, my entire grade was based upon one paper that was turned in on the last day of the semester. I made a good grade, but learned nothing. It was a waste of my time and money.
-Alyssa Salyers

Chris Swindell said...

If we're doing true confessions here, it's appropriate to accept some blame for the dumbing down of the academy. I require one major paper of the ethics capstone BECAUSE I have a cap of 25, which is not conducive to doing two papers. Until we cap ethics at 15 and make it two sections, ethics students will do only one major paper for me. However, I know they also do major papers for professors Bailey, Rabe, and Morris among others. Perhaps, if a student were to take classes from those people, they could post comments like Alyssa's ... about writing too much!

kquinonez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kquinonez said...

I think the popularity of electronic courses has assisted in the dumbing down of our education system. Electronic courses focus more on discussion amongst students and less on formal papers. This semester I am taking two courses online. The exams for one of my classes are three to five page essays. The other class requires a writing prompt for each section in a unit but there is not a specified length.

While there isn't an emphasis on writing papers in online classes, there is an emphasis in reading. Most of the work is independent reading. With each class, I read approximately 250 pages each unit in both classes combined.

Both of the classes that I with Professor Morris demand sufficient reading, particularly JMC 455 Women and Minorities in the Media. Just this past weekend, I had to read five studies, each ranging from 15-30 pages long. I feel there have not been as many writing assignments in the Reporting Public Affairs class. I think the blog posts in both classes definitely suffice for writing assignments in between larger ones, such as book reports.

Kristen said...

I've learned a lot in my 7 completed semesters at Marshall. While I may not have agreed with all of the methods used to teach class, I have learned from every single one of them. Just today I was helping a friend with a class I took two springs ago and she's in now. The information came back to me relatively easily.

Having taken Copy Editing last semester, he can attest that Professor Morris provides adequate work for a class. It teaches what we budding journalists need to know.

Marlowe Hereford said...

Any class I've ever taken that has not required an average (or beyond average) reading and writing requirement was outside of the journalism school. This was typical of general electives, but ultimately varied from instructor to instructor and teaching preferences. Every journalism class I've ever taken has required heavy reading and writing.
I agree with Alyssa about feeling overwhelmed with the reading requirements in certain courses, although the biggest difficulty I've faced in four years is balancing homework and studying with working full-time. If anything, the reading requirements of American college courses probably fall into the movement of creating competitive students who will therefore become competitive prospective workers.
I also agree with Katie's comment about the difference between online course requirements and classes that have physical meetings. Online courses can accept up to 100 students at once and assigning just as much work as a physical class of 20 students is not feasible for an instructor who would have to grade four classes worth of papers.
Higher level journalism courses, particularly ones taught by Profs. Morris, Swindell and Rabe, have reading and writing requirements that reflect the year of the students taking the class and their respective graduation requirements. These classes prove the "dumbing down" theory wrong, in my opinion.

phuongnguyen said...

In my experience as an international graduate student, I was interested in taking whatever classes related to my major. I did not care about requirements of classes, but I liked challenging classes. Because they required me to make efforts and I learnt much from them. I really found the classes I needed at Marshall. Your class is bringing me a pressure to read materials and I will have to finish two papers. That is a big deal.

Anjellica03 said...

In my experience at Marshall, I think my ratio of class that require a lot of reading and writing versus classes that dont is about 1:1. My core classes always require a lot of reading because you will be tested on the material based on your understanding of the assignment.

I can remember on my first tour of Marshall University, on of the tour guides said that if you take a 3 hour course you should study 3 hours for that class. My freshman year that wasn't hard because I only had certain two or three classes that you actually had to read. But now that I am in my final semester here, i find that rule very hard, there simply isn't enough time in the day to study three hours per class. the majority of my classes assign more than 40 pages a week, but the writing portion isn't quite 20 pages.

Because I was required to read and write in the majority of my classes, I do believe I learned more than the classes I didn't have to. When I'm reading I am learning the information and getting a better understanding of that subject.

Susan Crum said...

I can remember 26 years ago when I attended Marshall, there was hardly any writing or reading required. The Professors I had would come into class, write the assignment on the board, and leave. Which made it hard to learn when you didn't understand the assignment.

Now that I'm back in school, the reading and writing is tremendous and very challenging. When I first started in Professor Morris' class I felt very overwhelmed and didn't think I could do it. Like some of the students I not only go to school full-time but I also work full-time, help with my daughters Show Choir, take care of a sick husband and many other things. Professor Morris' class is very challenging and I have learned more than I thought I would. Also the Professors are a lot more helpful than they were years ago.

I feel the schools still have a long way to go in the ways education is taught.

MariaRomano said...

Maybe it is just because of my major and particular interest in literature classes, but I feel the reading and writing requirements I've encountered have been adequate.

It's true there are classes that can be easily passed without ever cracking open the book. In many, the reading requirement is overwhelming. Most of the time, at least in my opinion, for online classes the reading and writing requirement is well balanced. We can read at our own pace and generally depend upon the book to teach us.

In Professor Morris's class, though it is challenging, it seems like the readings are always helpful for completing individual assignments.

MadisonK said...

As an undergraduate, I was an English major. I used to be jealous of my friends who could not pick up a single book and still pass with an A in the class. Try doing that as an English major. It is impossible. Each class required at least 10 books and 4 major papers per class. My capstone was a portfolio of all papers I had written in my time as an English undergrad (proofed, edited and corrected). It totaled over 300 pages. Did I work as an undergrad? Without a doubt. Now in grad school, my workload is not overwhelming simply because I’ve never had an easy workload. Reading and papers have always been a part of my time at Marshall. However, in my general classes that were required by Marshall, work hardly needed to be accomplished. Integrated Science was a joke, Sociology could have been slept through and Math 121 was simply something I went to. The first two years of general classes were pointless but required. I feel as though my “real” time at college started when I was a junior and had reached 400 level English classes.


I don’t believe that my first two years were pointless as I learned a lot…just outside of class. I believe that, in JMC 555, there is sufficient reading and a good amount of projects and papers. I have never had a class taught by you, however, so I really have no basis for comparison. However, the class seems to be demanding and seems to be a class I will really learn in. Coming into the School of Journalism from the College of Liberal Arts has been challenging because of the difference in professors and writing requirements. I feel as though I have a very short time to learn a completely different way of thinking. The classes I’ve had, though, in the school as a graduate student (classes taught by Rabe, Swindell, Dooley and Hollis) have challenged me and helped me to grow more as a professional as opposed to being simply a student.

meghann said...

I must say that I'm not surprised at the numbers coming from the study. I do think that college education could be improved drastically. But my feelings don’t come from the course load, but from the structure of classes. In a day where technology reigns and we are constantly adapting, I think that education should also adapt. We are taught in college to think outside the box, yet colleges aren’t thinking outside the box when it comes to teaching.

But in the case of my education here at Marshall I believe I have had sufficient reading and writing in all of my classes, especially my journalism classes. I agree with Alyssa with the overwhelming feeling. I believe it comes from every professor thinking their class is superior to others and packing on a heavy reading list with sufficient writing. I don't think that a full effort can be given to each project because of time constraints, and sheer sanity. Learning from each professor is a balance, and takes effort from the more challenging classes. But I have a drive that Marlowe mentioned that pushes me to learn as much as possible. It lets me as a human use natural competitiveness to advance my future.

In the case of your teaching however, I have definitely been stretched thin during time of enrollment in your classes but I have always gained knowledge. While there is always reading and writing, I feel that in our field that it is just part of life. And teaching us those habits now will help us be successful in this new day where we will have to be constantly competitive.

sarahserena said...

I can honestly say that my first two years at Marshall were a walk in the park. I don't think I even bought books for my third or fourth semester at Marshall. I had the drive to do well, but the courses I took just weren't demanding. I think also one of the major reasons I didn't have to really crack a book was because I was a photography major. Art courses don't really require any reading at all, everything is more hands on. The art department is highly demanding of your time, in and out of the classroom, instead of reading, I was constantly in the studio working on a project that was due.

I have noticed though however that as I look back on my semesters at Marshall, that I really didn't ever NEED to open a book, but sometimes I just wanted to understand exactly what I was learning. I think all in all I would absolutely agree that it isn't that hard to get through Marshall as long as you put in the work. You WILL need to open a book even if you weren't assigned to read it, you WILL need to put in the effort or you are just going to "scrape by". I have actually learned this the hard way.

My last semester was reading intensive, so I would say that your class isn't over demanding, but sufficient. I am glad that I don't feel overwhelmed when I read your syllabus, but I do know that I need to keep on task with everything or I will fall behind. It's really just about time management, you will get out of Marshall what you put into it, most of the time.

Kerith Groom said...

Most of my journalism courses have been adequate in the assigned reading and writing assignments. My last semester, I had a Sports Literature course and was completely overwhelmed! We were told to read about 100-150 pages for every class, on top of what we had in our other courses. There were even students who asked her to shorten the assigned reading but she refused.

In classes that I'm thrilled to take, I find it easier for me to read more and absorb it all. I haven't found JMC 455 to be that demanding, yet. The topics are interesting to me so with 5 somewhat long articles being assigned, I'm reading and absorbing.

I've noticed more these past two semesters how professors have been relying less on teaching, and more on group discussion. I have one professor (outside of JMC) who assigns reading, and we become the teachers. We have to stand up and teach the course on the assigned reading. I don't feel like I'm learning in this course. There is no lead. He's even said he doesn't want to be the person in charge. For my education in this course, I'm relying on the student. Trusting that they read their assignment, interpreted it in the correct way and relay this information to me. I don't feel that this is the correct way to teach. This may be why students are making little intellectual growth.

Kelsey Duttine said...

When I enrolled in college, I didn't know what to expect. I only knew I wanted to become a journalist, regardless of the workload. Although I think the workload changes from semester to semester, I sometimes find myself feeling overwhelmed with the workload. In Broadcast Journalism, it's not only writing papers and reading, it's also a lot producing, shooting packages, and editing. But, I didn't come to college to take easy classes, I came to learn to be a journalist.

The study conducted might be true of most majors, but I think journalism majors should feel free to exclude themselves from the study because of the amount and quality of work expected from them. The study asked students how much they had read and how many papers they wrote to determine how much they learned. But reading and writing aren't the only ways for a person to demonstrate that they’ve learned something. I didn't learn to produce or anchor the news from reading a textbook or typing a term paper. I didn't know what to expect when I signed up for Reporting Public Affairs, but I've already learned ways to improve my writing.

w.burdette said...

In looking back at my college experience, I realize just how heavy my course load has been at times, especially journalism courses.

I think every journalism class I have taken has required sufficient reading and writing assignments, but that is because of the nature of the discipline.

Courses such as Ethics are very demanding, and students must show the professor through a very lengthy research paper. Although I complained many times in researching and writing for this paper, I really did learn more about the subject I was researching and how to actually research effectively.

Your classes have provided sufficient reading and writing assignments. Prior to this course, I have only had you for copy editing, which did require a good amount of writing and even a research paper.

However, courses outside the journalism school have been mixed. In history and political science courses, heavy amounts of reading and writing are the norm. However, in physical sciences such as biology, reading and writing assignments are rarely given. Those classes depend more on lab work than anything.

As a political science minor, I have felt at times overwhelmed with the amount of reading and writing I've had to do. The nature of some courses require substantial amounts of reading and writing, while others simply do not. Therefore, blaming the "dumbing down" of education on the lack of reading and writing is not a valid argument.

I think I have learned more from courses requiring reading and writing than any other courses I have taken during my time at Marshall.

Laura Hatfield said...

In my college career at Marshall University, I can honestly say all of classes were challenging in some way. Although some classes come easier to me than other I find challenges as a better way to learn.
Obviously, I like writing and English courses, after all I am a journalism major. After each journalism class that I take at Marshall, I find myself become stronger as a journalist. I'm not one that likes reading or long assignments but it is truly the way to understand the material. I agree with the article to an extent when they said "undergraduates learn very little in the first two years of college." It's not that I learned less in the first two years of my college career, but I was just learning how to juggle everything between classes, school work and extra curiculars.
I can already tell that I have a challenge ahead of me in JMC 414, but I have already learned a lot about writing for public affairs and it has only been three weeks. The readings and writings aissing in JMC 414 are very approopriate for this class and will help prepare us for our future jobs.
-Laura Hatfield

Lisa said...

Lisa Newman
January 27, 2011
Bonus points blog assignment

Please post to my blog page about this article. Indicate whether my classes require sufficient writing and reading assignments. Do you have classes that are as weak as the ones cited in the article? Five bonus points if you post your comments by midnight Jan. 27.


Research has shown that colleges have dialed down their curriculum in order to increase graduation rates for students. Does this technique simply band-aid the issue or does this offer resolution? There is much criticism when discussing the topic of college and what is expected of the students. Do the parents suffer or the students? We must engage our activities and atmosphere for learning at the college level to a standard that prepares our graduates for what is necessary and required for full support and knowledge of the subject matter they have studied and then assuming that they graduated.
Most students, according to the article, Does College Make You Smarter?, which is an excellent example of the impact that we face as students when we reach the real world, thereby setting us up for disaster. If we are not armed with the correct information in order to complete our job performance, then how does the college education that you worked so hard to achieve provide you with intellect and eventually resolution when it is your time to use the information learned through a solid college education.

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