Random question concerning class rigor at different colleges...

<p>I was just wondering something...lets say you're taking Intro Biology, a course a lot of people may take as a freshman. What would be the difference in this course between different colleges? Like from a community college, to a state school, to an ivy? Biology is biology...so in what way would the "rigor" of the class be different if the material is essentially the same? Would it be more outside work, more in depth, or more intuitive in some way? I don't know if there is really a concrete answer to this, but what does everyone think?</p>

<p>Thanks to anyone that provides a response!</p>

<p>A more selective school can assume a higher level of motivation and intellect on the part of its students, so it may, on average, have higher course rigor.</p>

<p>However, this can vary considerably by department and by course. For example, in one comparison between a state flagship and another state university of mid-level selectivity, the introductory computer science sequence is three courses at the flagship, but five courses at the other school. But the usual freshman-sophomore math sequence is four courses at both schools (although the flagship offers honors versions of some of the courses).</p>

<p>Community colleges are a special case, in that they need to align their courses and curricula to allow transfer to all of the state universities, so, in cases where there is a difference in rigor across the state universities, the community college may aim toward the high end to ensure course transferability to all of them. But they may not necessarily do that for all subjects, though they may be more likely to do so for common or more standardized subjects like math and English writing.</p>

<p>That's hard to answer but I'll try to give an answer for an Ivy, even if I don't understand it as well as I should. Take Computer Science at Brown. They don't really have CS101; that would likely be CS for nonmajors. What they have is a year integrated intro sequence that looks at CS from a broad point of view. In the process of looking at CS you will learn a few languages, but I don't even think there are separate language classes, once you have this foundational class, you should be able to teach yourself particular languages. You will look at theoretical foundations, algorithms, and current methods.</p>

<p>I guess at some other schools this would take many courses to compile this education. I do know that this approach is so successful that many students at the department graduation credited this sequence with changing their major to CS. I don't know if Bio is the same way.</p>

<p>For comparison, the two Brown courses referred to above plus one other Brown course would be roughly equivalent to the three courses at the state flagship and the five courses at the mid-level state school described above. Yes, in any decent CS department, the courses are about CS, not about learning a programming language, which is just a tool to use when learning and doing CS.</p>

<p>I've taught at a community college, a big regional state university, and at a small private college (not Rhodes). </p>

<p>One of the big differences in rigor is the means of assessment. At the CC and big state professors relied very heavily on multiple choice tests and the students did very little if any writing on the tests or in other assignments. There is a different level of understanding required to answer 50 multiple choice questions about a subject versus answering a prompt asking you to describe the impact of an event or to apply a theory to a problem or explain how two theories interact. </p>

<p>Another big difference is with assignments, particularly group assignments. When the quality of the student is lower, group assignments are less valuable to the participants. When the students are highly able and invested, the assignments can be really valuable learning experiences.</p>

<p>Another difference is that at CCs and sometimes at big state, the courses may be standardized. That is, the professor doesn't pick the book, doesn't set the schedule, doesn't write the test. That's done by committee. Consequently, there's little opportunity to pursue tangential topics that are of interest to the students in the classroom. </p>

<p>Another difference is the classroom experience itself. Better professors at better schools will find ways to engage students during the class time, even if it's a big lecture. If you've ever sat through an hour long powerpoint presentation, you know that technique's effectiveness has severe limits. Demonstrations, small group breakouts, even socratic interrogation will all provide superior outcomes.</p>

<p>Those are the areas from which I have seen difference in rigor arise.</p>

<p>I've studied and taught at both top publics and elite privates. It's not a public v. private thing. It depends on the school, the program, and sometimes the particular professors. The philosophy department at a school like Michigan will be more like the philosophy department at Princeton than either is like, say, North Dakota State.</p>

<p>Interesting question!</p>