Overloaded Or Unprepared?
Students and Professors Disagree on Why Freshman Struggle Their First Semester
Published: Friday, April 27, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 26, 2012 23:04
Freshmen have a dismal success rate in some first-year courses.
Students say they are asked to learn too much in the classes they take when they first arrive at Lyndon State College; professors say that the students are not prepared for college-level work.
70 percent of first semester freshmen failed to get a C- or better in Intro to New Media last semester. LSC keeps statistics on first semester freshmen that receive a D, withdraw, fail, or get an incomplete from a class (DWFI). Intro to New Media was at the top of the list with only three freshmen succeeding in the course.
There are about 90 class options available for freshmen at LSC. According to the list of DWFI classes provided by Dean of Academic and Student Affairs Donna Dalton, 20 of those classes had a DWFI rate of 20 percent or higher.
In terms of sheer numbers, College Writing had 76 out of 316 first semester freshmen that would have to repeat the course. In two math courses that many freshmen are required to take, almost half of first semester freshmen did not succeed. Thirty-two out of the 70 freshmen who took Problem Solving With Math were DWFIs and in Intermediate Algebra the number was 35 out of 79.
Freshmen who are currently taking Intro to New Media cite the abundance of new software they have to use for the class, which they may not be familiar with, as one of the reason their classmates have issues. The class focuses on using the Adobe Suites software which includes InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver and Fireworks.
“If you have no prior knowledge of Adobe going into this class you are automatically at a disadvantage in terms of what you can do,” said graphic design major Cody Brackett. “You really have to learn what other people may already have learned years ago in high school.”
Adjunct professor Michael Niggel teaches the class and students say that not having the teacher on campus is an issue. Another problem students have is that it is a hybrid, meaning that the class meets once a week, but the majority of the work and communication with the teacher is online.
“That definitely contributes to not getting credit for a class because not having access to a professor on a regular basis and only having online communication can definitely influence the grade,” said graphic design major Brandon Heanssler.
Visual arts department chair Phil Parisi, who has taught Intro to New Media in the past, disagrees that having the class as a hybrid should impact the students negatively. He says there are plenty of resources the students can use if they need help and does not see having an adjunct teach the course as a negative because he says all adjuncts are fully qualified.
“There’s four ways that a student could get help: online, in the classroom with the faculty member, with a tutor, or with me,” Parisi said. “There’s always a subject content expert available on campus as a full-time faculty member.”
He said that no student came to him for help last semester and thinks freshmen need to take more responsibility.
“Freshmen who are coming in here are not used to taking control of their learning,” Parisi said. “We expect our students, from the day they walk in, to start taking control of what they learn.”
Intro to New Media will be offered for the final time this summer online and will be taught by Parisi. The visual arts department has gone through an overhaul with its majors. Incoming freshmen will take basic courses their first year and will not learn the material presented by Intro to New Media until their sophomore year which will lend itself to having more responsible students in the classes.
The second class on the DWFI list was Intro to Political Science with 63 percent of first semester freshmen not succeeding. Out of the eight that took the course, three were successful. Freshmen currently taking that class say the problem is so much information.
“There is a lot of subject matter,” said graphic design major Tyler Powell who says he is currently getting around a B in the class, if not higher. “You need to have a base knowledge before you go into the class to know simple laws and constitutions. (Students) go into the class not sure what to expect and they get overloaded and they just can’t deal with it.”
Freshman computer science and math major Alec Vando, who is also currently taking the class, agrees that there is plenty to memorize, but sees a different reason to why students have a hard time with Intro to Political Science.
“If they are not interested in the material they are going to forget it,” he said. “I am the exception to the rule. I find this completely fascinating. I’ve been interested in politics for years. A lot of people don’t have that (interest).”
Professor David Plazek, who is currently teaching the class and taught it last semester, says that intro classes by nature have plenty of rote memorization. They are the building blocks to the higher level courses.