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As my college career at Auburn University comes to an end, finals preparation is just beginning for students everywhere.
It never fails to amuse me to see classrooms in full attendance for the first time since the start of the semester as everyone tries to squeeze in those last review days before the big test.
As finals week approaches here at Auburn, I am only preparing for one final - a group presentation. My last college finals week may be stress free this year, but it hasn't always worked out that way. I've pulled my fair share of all-nighters and probably teetered on the verge of caffeine overload a time or two, but somehow - I prevailed.
My freshman and sophomore year were filled with core classes that took place in the large auditorium setting. As the semester went on, fewer and fewer students attended the weekly lectures, professors relied more on their power points verses student engagement, and I found myself dozing off. I found it was difficult for me to have the best course experience I knew all of my Auburn courses had to offer.
The majority of college or university professors set aside office hours to students for questions, comments and/or conversation, they open their office doors to allow students the 1-on-1 time that is not easily attainable in the large 200+ person classrooms. However, there was the occasional schedule conflict that made it difficult to attend office hours or stay after class as often as I wanted. Being the chatter box/social butterfly I am, this was a hurdle I had to overcome.
Although I was able to keep a relatively high GPA throughout my underclassman years, I found my most successful final grades came from the semesters where I was in a smaller, more intimate classroom setting of less than 30 students. It was here that I was able to interact with classmates, engage in conversation or debates and get to know my professors.
With online classes and MOOCs on the rise, many are asking the question if class size matters in college courses. I may benefit from the smaller classroom setting, but I surely can't speak for everyone.
Inside Higher Ed is one of Verge Pipe Media's favorite higher education blog sites. This past January they released an article that was centered around this very question.
According to the article, instructors in large classes are more likely to emphasize learning factual knowledge and less likely to stress developing oral and written communication skills that are often practiced in small or medium classroom settings - especially in general education courses. In my case, this made sense. The larger classroom settings were less effective for me, whereas I found it easier to learn, engage and pay attention in my smaller, major-related courses.
Sounds pretty obvious, right? Perhaps. But like I said before, everyone learns differently and there is no right or wrong way to go about learning or teaching in a higher education institution. It is my opinion that learning and being tested in a large class environment is more challenging - even to stay awake.
The downside to having smaller classrooms, especially in a higher education system, is that they are expensive. Perhaps large classrooms could become more beneficial if professors used smaller classroom teaching tactics or received input from the students themselves.
Regardless, I am happy to be ending my 5th year "victory lap" stress free with only one final and a few days off standing in the way of me and my graduation ceremony. I am anxious to see what finals week will be like for the next crop of incoming college goers, especially with flipped classrooms and MOOCs on the rise.
Until then, I'm off to brush off my cap and gown.
Author: Tricia Barton is a Spring Community Manager at Verge Pipe Media. Verge Pipe Media assists public institutions, enterprises and the non-profit sector with Imaginative Inbound Marketing strategies + campaigns. We also have a development team chock full of Marvelous Mobile Migrators, poised to help transition our clients into a mobile + social world with custom software, iOS and Android mobile apps.