“But, I can’t graduate if you don’t offer that course!”

What to do?

When tough choices are made about what courses to run and what courses to cut, students can feel pretty vulnerable and instructors can feel both powerless and responsible.

 “It was great learning different things in multiple classes – I greatly appreciate this class.”

More and more, when we hit these impasses, we turn to technological advances to fashion a response.  We push the limits of our resources and dream up futuristic advances to somehow meet the needs of the student. With two recent program curriculum changes, I ended up with nine students in need of three different program classes. I felt responsible, and my interim director gave me the power. Forget about technology!

“It was fun to have the classes combined.”

We implemented the ultimate interactive experience: the one room school house!  We did forgo the slate and chalk, but all that was great about the one room schoolhouses of the past permeated our learning experience.

What does it take?

Ms. Beadle has my admiration. Planning learning activities to engage and forward students in multiple classes sharing the same space and time is definitely a challenge for an instructor. A one room schoolhouse takes an incredible amount of planning and grading time (well in excess of what the separate classes would demand).

“I liked reviewing with classes I was not technically in. This was a great experience.”

The instructor has to bring heaping servings of creativity, flexibility, perseverance, and joy to the planning table. The instructor also has to inspire the learners to bring those same qualities to each class meeting.

 “Listening to the other classes kept it all fresh.”

Everyone has to be prepared for the unexpected and be willing to accept the “off kilter” feel that will permeate the room. Participants will know they have gotten it right when every member embraces that uncertainty and lets it power the learning experience!

  “I like that each class helped the others.”

When each class period closes, you will find the learners lingering, reluctant to end the “event;” thinking of classmates as family members they can rely on; and, wondering why we do classes any other way.

What’s happening in there?

Learners and an instructor are working together to learn and apply skills in more than one course at the same time in the same space. Cooperation and collaboration thrive in this environment, where there is no room for competition, no time for argument, and no place for distraction.

“We were able to help other students… and enhance, expand, and review our own knowledge.”

Learners fill in the gaps in understanding, and lean on one another, constantly engaged in guiding, supporting, and mentoring. The environment nearly forces these conditions on the participants. Learners who lean toward the Nellie Olson path are peer coached into harmony and no one is left behind. Everyone works extra hard to make it all come together and goes home exhausted and fulfilled, knowing that they made it happen, under some pretty pioneering conditions.

One thought on ““But, I can’t graduate if you don’t offer that course!”

  1. What a delightful testimony of creative survival in the wilderness of academia sprinkled with less technology and more human connections, learning to unlearn, collaborative and cooperative learning, integrated discovery of individual and collective problems and challenges, holistic education in an attempt to recover all that has been banished as not real learning, and yes, that includes the slate and chalk ( yes, more white boards and fewer smart boards); small is beautiful and less can be more — I am somewhere between “Good-bye Mr. Chips” and “Dead Poet’s Society.”
    I think Steven Spielberg might make your story into a movie.

    “Technology can be our best friend, and technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we’re too busy bridging the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the cell phone.”

    Steven Spielberg

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