(Ed. Note: The following post contains nothing about cycling, be warned.)
I took my last final exams yesterday and completed my first semester at Southeastern Illinois College since 2002. It was kind of surreal, I ran into a few kids that I’ve taught in school over the years, one that was about 9 years old when he was in my class. Fortunately had a friend who is in a similar situation to me in 2 of my classes and it was good and the truth was there were several people in all three of my classes who were in their 30s so it wasn’t like I stuck out like a sore thumb.
So what’s different after 10 years away from college courses? Easily the largest difference is the saturation of the cell phone. I remember in 1999 during a night class a phone went off. The student deftly clipped a small box off of his belt and clicked a button and a panel snapped out, “Sorry, I’ve got to take this,” he said as he left class. This was pretty far out because at the time most handheld phones were about the size of a walkie talkie and I rarely ever saw anyone using them, car phones were the in-style item and their goofy little curled antennas were sprouting from rear windows like weeds.
Fast forward to 2013, it seems that nearly everyone has a smart phone, and in one class 9 out of 12 students would have it on their desk and would regularly use it during class. In every single class I attended, the beeps and buzzes could be heard going off around the room at regular intervals, I often though I was camping in the woods at night, listening to the bugs and wildlife. Some instructors discouraged gadget use during class, others seemed oblivious to it.
Another change is the popularity of online class, while enrollment at my community college has gone up since I was there last, I am certain that there are far fewer people actually present in the hallways. My wife recently signed up for summer classes and found that many of the classes she needed were offered online, which is great since she’ll be able to work them around her schedule. I can’t really comment about online classes having never taken them myself, but seeing how some people use their time in class I can’t see how cutting out the class room lecture component of a class could hurt them, they are only present in body, their mind is in facebook.
Another thing that technology has changed is the way students (who aren’t playing with their phones) gather information in class. It seems like 13 years ago in pretty much every class I took, the teacher presented information either as a power point or written on the board and we copied the information into our notebooks. That seems to have become old fashioned now, often instructors use powerpoints and make them freely available so they can be loaded onto tablets or laptops. Some students would even take photos of hand written notes with their phones or tablets to avoid actually writing any notes out.
As far as the actual material, instructors, and the physical building, things were hauntingly similar. The same art hung on the walls, the same chairs and tables were in the exact same locations. The instructors all provided quality instruction. I always felt that the instructors I had at Southeastern were far better than the ones I had at Southern Illinois University. Not to say I didn’t have some good instructors at SIU, but mostly they fell into 2 categories, foreign TAs whose English was difficult to understand, or bizarre activist professors who were far more interested in their causes then actually teaching their courses.
Here’s an interesting fact, I can remember just about every single instructors name from the classes I attended at SIC between 97-99, I can remember only one from my classes at SIU between 99-02
So what else changed? Well I suppose that being 34, changes your perspective on things. I’m quite certain I found it easier to stay focused than I did when I was 18, heck often my classes were the most interesting part of my day! I’m sure that I my brain isn’t quite as sharp as it was back then, I had to spend more time outside of class then I did and I was much slower taking tests.
It looks like I’ve got a summer class to look forward to, and then the specialized classes for Medical Lab Technician training next year.