What are the humanities?
A humanities course credit is required for all students who are seeking an associate of arts or associate of science degree, but many students don’t understand what the “humanities” description means.
Professor Kathleen Hom is an adjunct professor at SLCC. Her class, Elements of Human Communication, is considered to be part of the humanities.
“Humanities is the study of everything that isn’t the sciences, mathematics, engineering, or physical education. It’s the study of the human condition: its past, its present and its potentialities,” said Hom.
Students can expect a humanities course to require a more subjective examination of the world, while most science and math courses focus on an objective approach.
What does the course number of my class mean?
There is no nationally recognized standard for designating course numbers, such as the “1010” in “English 1010.” Every college is free to use whichever system they prefer. Some use a three-digit system, and some, such as SLCC, use a four-digit system.
That doesn’t mean that a student can’t make some assumptions about a class based on its course number.
Most importantly, it’s fair to assume that the first digit denotes the level of the course.
“1000 level class is the basics. I’m teaching you vocabulary; I’m teaching you where things fit into a field of study. 2000 level classes assume that you already know the vocabulary, and that you’re ready to start looking at the theory. When you get to 3000 level class, you are starting to look at master’s work,” said Hom.
The second digit is usually shared by similar courses within a particular field of study. For example, here at SLCC, Communication 1515 is Basic Audio Production, while 1560 is Radio Production.
Beyond that, the numbers are largely arbitrary. Colleges usually make a minor change to a course number if they change the curriculum significantly. Over time, this leaves a mish-mash of numbers for the final digit(s).
Is the person teaching my class a professor, or an instructor?
In high school, the title given to a person teaching a class is simply “teacher.” Students usually understand that a more formal title is preferred in higher education, but aren’t sure which title to use.
Professor Jay Williams is interim division chair of arts and communication at SLCC. He points out that the college has specific requirements in order for a faculty member to be considered a professor.
“Here at the college, a full professor is someone who has been here 7 years. They have either a PhD or two masters degrees. They have achieved tenure,” said Williams.
If a student is concerned with accuracy, “instructor” can be used for a member of faculty who has not earned this position, but this shouldn’t be taken to mean that they should be treated with any less respect. In fact, there is nothing wrong with calling a person “professor,” even if they have not officially earned the position.
Professor Hom offers some advice for students unsure of which title to use.
“I would say go to the top: call them professor. They all like to be called professor, and let’s face it, if you are gonna go for a grade, be nice,” she said.
What is the difference between a college and a university?
Professor Williams offers a simple definition of a university.
“In a classic sense, a university is a grouping of colleges,” he explains. “More modernly, it’s a research institution,” he said.
Two-year institutions are usually colleges, while universities often offer PhD programs. Even so, there isn’t a hard rule or legal criterion concerning a learning institution’s choice of classification. Any school can declare itself a college or university.
I signed up for a Service Learning class. What does that mean?
Service Learning is part of a new, community-minded school of thought among progressive educators.
The SLCC Advisor Handbook can provide the best description of the practice.
“Service Learning courses include a requirement to participate in service and to write reflections on the experience. The Thayne Center for Service and Learning connects students, faculty and staff to the surrounding community through service projects, classes, and scholarship program,” says the handbook.
Students shouldn’t expect the service work to take the place of regular coursework. Service Learning classes are just as academically thorough as their traditional counterparts; they simply require some related community work to go along with it.
The amount of extra work is usually around 12 hours per semester, depending on the instructor. Some students are scared off by this additional commitment, but those who take the plunge are usually rewarded with invaluable real-world experience and local connections.
What does it mean to declare a major?
When a four-year institution awards a bachelor degree, the degree is specifically linked with the student’s area of study. For example, a student who majors in art history will earn an art history BA (Bachelor of Arts).
The same isn’t true of an associate degree.
“Technically, we don’t have majors at SLCC. We have programs, or areas of interest. When you earn an associate degree, you have an area of emphasis, or you have program requirements, but you don’t have major course requirement. Four-year degrees do have that,” said Joanne Thomas, assistant director of academic and career advising at SLCC. “So, when you get your actual diploma, it says you have an associate of science degree. It doesn’t say what your major was. When you earn a bachelor’s degree, it does.”
Once a student has earned an associates degree, the transfer institution will accept a certain number of SLCC credits as major credits, assuming they came from the proper area of study.
“Your transcript here will say what your emphasis was in,” Thomas said. “The program of study, or area of interest, prepares you to go on in a major.”
The distinction is very technical. Most students and faculty either don’t know about the difference, or don’t feel that it’s worth worrying about.
Even SLCC’s MyPage site allows students to declare a “major” by submitting a “major change request.” Once the school has this information, the student gains access to an online “degree evaluation” from the MyPage site. This tool is essential for tracking progress toward a transfer degree.
What does it mean to audit a class?
Sometimes, a student just wants to learn about a subject without doing the work that a full course requires. Most colleges offer this option, including SLCC.
“To audit a class means to attend the class, but not have the pressure of getting a grade for it,” explains Thomas.
This isn’t an option for all classes, and course prerequisites aren’t waived. Unlike some colleges, at SLCC the tuition for an audited class is the same as those taken for credit.
What is an interdisciplinary class?
At SLCC, every student is required to complete one interdisciplinary class to earn an associates degree. Looking over a list of interdisciplinary courses, it can be hard to see what they have in common.
“It involves more than one discipline. [For example,] the class may have social science implications, and some fine art implications. It draws from many areas of study,” said Thomas.
It’s not always obvious by looking at a course description, but students usually discover the interdisciplinary links by the time they complete a class.