You have probably imagined what it would be like to make up your own course or even to take one taught by your peers about something less formal than Chemistry 2B or English 40. Well next year, you will have that opportunity.
For Fall 2012, the Experimental College (EC) is unveiling the Alternative Learning Project (ALP), a set of workshops centered on the topic of the instructors course. Hannah Moore, the office manager for the EC said that these courses are aimed to give another perspective on things, other than the purely academic.
“It’s a more personal sense fostering much more discussion,” Moore said. “Not everybody is going to take a women’s studies class or an ethnic studies class and those are things that you may say are interesting, but you might not have the time in your schedule or have that chance. This is a space where you can do that — getting back to the EC roots.”
Junior international relations major and director of the EC Suzanne Lewis came up with the idea after realizing the history and the mission of the EC as well as seeing a need for alternative voice on campus
“The EC was started with a really radical mission to bring subjects to campus that the university wouldn’t teach like ethnic studies and women and gender studies. Now the university offers those, but I feel like there are still some limitations to what can be done in a classroom setting, at least as sanctioned by the university,” Lewis said. “I thought that it would be kind of cool to offer a space where there really aren’t limitations on who can teach or what can be taught. Students have a lot of knowledge so why can’t students teach students?”
However, Lewis said that the fact that the EC offers workshop series aren’t the unique part about the program.
“What is unique is we already have the structure set up and all people have to do is think of what they are going to teach during each session,” Lewis said. “I think it’s unique how convenient it is for students and faculty and whoever wants to lead a workshop.”
As far as the topics that students can choose for their workshops, Lewis said that almost anything goes as long as it doesn’t clash with the mission of the EC and attracts student interest.
“We are always looking for something interesting — for the most part we are pretty open to what people have to bring us,” Moore said.
Lewis said that anyone can teach, including students and community members, who feels passionately about any topic be it animal science to activism.
“The hierarchy of who can teach and who can learn is kind of removed from this whole process because anyone can teach, anyone can take. We’re making education accessible to as many people as we can,” Lewis said.
Whitney Ricker, EC course coordinator and senior psychology major, said that not only can anyone be an instructor, but the way that the workshops are set up allows for even the instructors to learn due to the collaborative learning environment.
“It’s not just the students that learn but it’s the instructors as well. I think that students and instructors can get a lot out of this experience,” Ricker said. “In recent years we haven’t had discussion type courses and that’s what we’re trying to revive right now. One misconception might be that this is going to be a dry boring lecture-type class and my hope is that they are more about collaborative learning.”
Because the courses are more discussion based and do not have grades or homework associated with them, they allow for a different kind of learning said EC publicity director, Peter Neeley, a sophomore English and Human Development major.
“I think it’s always important to keep in mind that learning should be as much for yourself as it should be for a grade,” Neeley said. “The ALP provides a space where it’s about growing your knowledge. We are all students and we’re all interested in learning but I think there is a sense that people want to learn on their own terms. What I hope for this project is that people use it as an opportunity to create more spaces for open learning on campus where real dialogue can happen.”
With that in mind, none of these courses count for university credit, but both Lewis and Ricker said that a majority of the workshops will be free, increasing accessibility.
“They are just something fun and interesting to add into your schedule,” Ricker said. “I think that these classes can be for everyone.”
Overall though, the ALP follows the main goals of the EC, to create a unique learning environment and make way for new conversation.
“Its just about bettering yourself and furthering your own education,” Lewis said. “There’s just as much value learning about cooking as there is learning about physics. I feel like every subject is valuable and every person who is passionate about subjects and wants to teach them is valuable as well.”
If you are interested in applying to teach a course through the ALP, contact firstname.lastname@example.org before Aug. 1.
DEVON BOHART can be reached at email@example.com.