This post was written by Judith Wightman, Professional Development Fellow and faculty in the Psychology department.
Taking credit courses offered through Kirkwood can serve a variety of purposes, including learning more about a particular subject, getting exposure to new technologies and teaching techniques used by other instructors, increasing in empathy for students, and working toward a degree. Faculty are eligible to take tuition-free courses depending on their status and the number of credit hours taken per term.
I took Introduction to Computers in 2012, and Medical Terminology and Preparation for College Math (PCM) in 2013. Each of these courses met a specific goal and were relevant to my teaching, but PCM had the additional benefit of helping me to connect with my own students. PCM is a developmental math course that is meant to help students succeed when they advance to credit courses in math. The course is structured around 12 modules and the course materials are consistent across instructors and delivery formats (I took it online). My Compass test scores indicated that the math I learned 20 years ago had faded from my memory, and I had heard many of my students talk about this particular course.
PCM was more interesting and useful than I could have hoped. My course started in the middle of spring semester, so I had a chance to tell the students I had at that time that I was getting ready to begin it. Several of the students in each class stayed after class to talk about the course. This fall, I have mentioned to each class that I took PCM this past spring and summer (I wait until it’s relevant, as in when I’m showing students how to calculate their percentage in the course). Each time I mention PCM to students, someone (and sometimes, 3-4 people) stays after class to share their experiences. We talk about how math can be challenging, how the PCM course seems to be structured in a logical way, our successes and challenges with the content, and how it feels to “go back to school” after many years. I’m not sure I could spur these conversations in any other way, and my students are hearing an important message about how, just because someone knows a lot about _________, that doesn’t mean he or she knows a lot about everything. It has been humbling for me to find the course content to be quite difficult. I entered the course thinking that I would complete all 12 modules during the term, but I only made it through module 5 (this was the first of three “exit points” in the course, where the student can earn a grade and stop working for that term). I share this fact with students as well, as an example of how people are generally quite bad at predicting how long a task or project will take them to complete.
In addition to connections with students, all three of the courses I have taken exposed me to publisher-provided online content that would be interesting to incorporate into some of the courses I teach. Online packages take advantage of what computers are good at; that is, exposing students to hours of practice using engaging activities, quizzes, and games, and quizzing them using a large bank of questions until mastery is achieved.
I would love to hear about others’ experiences with becoming a student again. What connections have you made between the content of the courses taken and taught? How has this effort benefited you personally, as well as your students? What advice do you have for others who are thinking about taking courses?