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Professor Tells Stuttering Student Not to Speak in Class

by Suada Kolovic

For years, educators have stressed the importance of asking questions and participating in classroom discussions, insisting that education is a dialog between student and teacher. But what if your professor personally insisted that you keep quiet during class? For one student at a New Jersey community college, that was just the case.

Philip Garber Jr., a 16-year-old who is taking two classes at the County College of Morris, has a profound stutter that makes talking difficult – and talking quickly impossible. According to the Star-Leger, after the first few class sessions in which Garber actively participated, he received an unusual email from his instructor: The professor, an adjunct named Elizabeth Snyder, requested that he pose his questions before or after class, “so that we do not infringe on the other students’ time.” As for the questions she asks during class, Ms. Snyder suggested, “I believe it would be better for everyone if you kept a sheet of paper on your desk and wrote down the answers.”

Determined to resolve the issue, Garber reported the situation to a college dean, who suggested he transfer to another teacher’s class, where he has been asking and answering questions again. The college wouldn’t say if any disciplinary action was taken against Snyder. (For more on the story click here.)

Do you think Garber was unfairly discriminated against because of his stutter? Do you think Ms. Snyder’s request was out of line?


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Recent Grads Say High School Wasn’t Challenging Enough

by Suada Kolovic

What high school student doesn’t love the idea of selecting a course based on the common knowledge the teacher is totally laidback and you’re guaranteed an easy A without much effort? We’ve all been there before and with all the classes high school students are required to take, many attempt to pack their electives with cushy classes before the reality of challenging college courses set in. But at what cost? According to a survey of 2010 high school graduates released by the College Board, 90 percent said their high school diplomas were not enough to compete in today’s society.

Almost half of the 1,507 students surveyed said they wish they took different classes in high school, specifically more challenging science, math and writing courses. As for the students who decided to take Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses – 39 percent of those surveyed – agreed that the extra difficulty was worth it. In hindsight, the majority of students agreed that high school graduation requirements should be made tougher, and nearly 70 percent said that graduating high school was “easy” or “very easy.” Some students even went on to say that high school didn’t adequately prepare them for college, 54 percent of graduates said that their freshman year college courses were more difficult than expected, and a quarter needed to take remedial classes during their freshman year.

Those of you still in high school, does the study’s findings encourage you to take more difficult classes while in high school? What changes should high schools make in order to better prepare students for college? Do you think it’s a high school’s responsibility to encourage students to take AP or IB courses?


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High Schools Seniors: 5 Things to do Before Summer’s Up

by Suada Kolovic

Ah, senior year. It’s a time chock-full with to-dos, from finalizing your college choice and filling out applications to applying for scholarships and getting your financial aid in order. And with summer slowly coming to a close, it’s a good time for rising high school seniors to realize that some deadlines are just around the corner. So rather than let the last weeks of summer slip away, avoid the fall time crunch and consider U.S. News and World’s top suggestions of five simple things you can do now:

  1. Examine school prices: Relying on just the sticker price when making your college selection is a huge mistake. For the most part, sticker prices are often meaningless. Take the time to do some serious research and understand the real cost of the institutions you’re interested in.
  2. Know deadlines: Keeping track of the various deadlines you’ll have to meet is essential for a successful senior year. In order to make things easier, use Scholarships.com’s calendar as a reference!
  3. Get started on your college essay: Writing a college essay is one of the most nerve-wracking chores high school seniors face. To relieve some of the pressure, start early. Think about it: If you start now, you’re more likely to be able to devote the time needed to do a great job.
  4. Consider supplemental materials: If you’re an artist, musician or actor, applying for colleges (and scholarships!) may be more time consuming. In some cases, you’ll have to audition and have an impressive portfolio to standout. Some schools also require SAT Subject Tests so find out and book exam dates now.
  5. Research: If you haven’t begun researching schools, get started now. Check out schools online, take virtual tours and really consider what qualities are most important to you. Think about what you want out of your college experience – whether it’s a school with a strong academic record, impressive athletic teams or diverse social programs and services – and take a hard look at whether you’re applying to schools for the right reasons.

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And the Most Common College Grade is...

by Suada Kolovic

Contrary to popular belief, earning an A in college may not be as much of a challenge as it seems. According to a new study, 43 percent of all grades at four-year colleges and universities is an A while Ds and Fs are few and far between.

The study, published in Teachers College Record, was conducted by Stuart Rojstaczar, a retired professor of geology, civil engineering and the environment at Duke University, and Christopher Healy, an associate professor of computer science at Furman University. For the study, they collected historical data from 200 four-year colleges and universities and contemporary data from 135. They found that across the board college students earning A grades are widespread in every sector and region of the country. Private colleges tend to be more generous on grades than do public institutions and by comparing historical data, they found that there had been an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960 and 12 percentage points since 1988 in the percentage of A grades awarded in higher education.

According to the authors, the abundance of A-level grades is a serious problem. "When A is ordinary, college grades cross a significant threshold. Over a period of roughly 50 years, with a slight reversal from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, America’s institutions of higher learning gradually created a fiction that excellence was common and that failure was virtually nonexistent," they write.

Do you agree with the study’s findings? Do you think grade inflation is a serious problem on college campuses today?


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Later Classes for Students Mean Sleep More, Booze and Lower Grades

by Suada Kolovic

Ah college, a sacred time in your adult life when waking up at noon is considered the norm, Ramen noodles as a diet staple are typical and your classes don’t start until 2 p.m. (Trust me, it’s the good life.) Unfortunately, night owls, there’s a downside: According to a recent study, college students whose classes start later in the day sleep more but they also consume more alcohol and have lower grade point averages.

The study, led by two psychologists at St. Lawrence University, in Canton, N.Y., surveyed 253 students about their sleep, class schedules, substance use and mood, among other things. It found that night owls were likely to get more sleep than early birds but were also more likely to binge drink and their grades were moderately lower. They found that students who had later classes tended to stay up later, were not as well rested and had more daytime sleepiness. “Later class start times seemed to change the choices students make: They sleep longer, and they drink more," said Pamela Thacher, co-lead author on the study which was presented at SLEEP 2011, the Associated Professional Sleep Societies meeting in Minneapolis.

Do you agree with the study’s findings? Are you more likely to stay up late if you don’t have to wake up for an early class and does being up late translate into making poor decisions?


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10 Universities with the Smallest Classes

by Suada Kolovic

The transition from high school to college is most evident to students when they realize they’ll no longer be coddled in cozy classes of 20 students or less. Lecture halls with 300-plus students are the norm at most major universities where classes tend to be impersonal, relationships with professors are typically nonexistent and students feel more like numbers than people. So for those who prefer a learning environment that provides back-and-forth discussion amongst students and professors, U.S. News and World Report has compiled a list of universities with the highest percentage of small classes.

According to the data, several universities with undergraduate enrollments below 3,000, as well as a few top ranked universities with larger undergraduate populations, reported that a vast majority of their classes have fewer than 20 students. Check out the top 10 universities with the smallest class sizes below. (For more information on the survey, click here.)

  1. New School
  2. Golden Gate University
  3. Harvard University
  4. Immaculata University
  5. Nova Southeastern University
  6. Yale University
  7. Columbia University
  8. University of Chicago
  9. SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
  10. University of La Verne

How important is class size to you? Are large lectures deal breakers in your book?


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Professor Arrested for Battery After Closing Student's Laptop Screen

by Suada Kolovic

Laptops are as ubiquitous in lecture halls as pulling all-nighters are during midterms and finals. But students should think twice before surfing the web in class: They might walk away with a bruised ego…as well as a few bruised fingers.

According to the Valdosta State University Spectator, assistant professor of mass media Frank Rybicki was arrested for assault after he shut a student’s laptop screen during class. Why? She was allegedly web surfing as opposed to taking notes. Students told the Spectator that the incident took place following an argument between Rybicki and the student, Krista Bowman, on March 25, during a Law & Ethics of Media lecture. Bowman filed a complaint – claiming she has sustained injuries to her finger or fingers following the incident – and university police arrested Rybicki on a charge of battery. He has since been released on a $2,500 bond and university representative Thressea Boyd released a statement saying the charges are under investigation.

In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Rybicki confirmed his arrest and suspensions, but insists he had never physically harmed a student. Do you think the professor was out of line when he shut Bowman’s laptop, possibly harming her? What should professors do to combat the problem of students blogging, tweeting and Facebooking instead of paying attention to class? Is it really their responsibility to monitor students that closely?


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The Plagiarist’s Weapon of Choice

Plagiarism Flagged at Social and User-Generated Websites Most Often

May 2, 2011

The Plagiarist’s Weapon of Choice

by Suada Kolovic

Looking over your peer’s shoulder during a test or copying from the encyclopedia are out but plagiarizing off user-generated sites – ones that your peers had a hand in publishing – is in, according to a recent study.

The findings were released by iParadigms, the creator of Turnitin, a plagiarism-detection service that checks for possible plagiarism by comparing submitted papers to several databases using a proprietary algorithm. The study consisted of analyzing 40 million papers submitted by high school and college students over a 10-month period. Chris Harrick, vice president of marketing at Turnitin says the findings show, “that plagiarism in sourcing work is going the way that everything else in the world is going. People are relying more on their peers than on experts.”

It’s important to note that the study does have its faults. Turninit specifically detects “matched content” and not outright plagiarism. So, while the software will flag material from a paper mill, it will also flag material that has been properly attributed and cited. That aside, here’s the breakdown of study:


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Arizona State Professor: ‘I’m a recovering cheater’

by Suada Kolovic

Academic dishonestly has become a rampant problem in schools across the country but the focus is usually on students, not their teachers. Are educators truly exempt from cheating? Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, an associated professor at Arizona State University, had a personal quest in finding out how common cheating is among teachers. Why? She admits she’s cheated as a teacher.

Amrein-Beardsley and Arizona State colleagues David Berliner and Sharon Rideau created an online survey – “Cheating in the First, Second and Third Degree” – to measure what types of cheating take place and to what degree cheating occurs among Arizona teachers. With responses from more than 3,000 educators, the data revealed that while cheating is common, much of it was either unintentional or what many teachers don’t consider cheating, such as leaving up wall displays of multiplications tables during tests. According the USA Today article, Amrein-Beardsley said that as a teacher, she routinely took questions from old tests and made study guides by changing numbers and details from existing outlines...which technically is cheating. "I had no clue it was wrong. I thought I was doing great," she said. Most states have regulations in place that affirms teachers are never allowed to see test questions and that only retired or practice questions are supposed to be used to prepare students.

Now, does this seem like an overly critical analysis of what cheating means? Do you think a teacher is being academically dishonest if they create a new math problem with a new answer but use the same technique to solve it as an older problem? How do you define cheating? Let us know what you think.


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University Study: Students Feel Guilty for Texting in Class

by Suada Kolovic

Over the years, students have mastered the art of distraction during class, from daydreaming to doodling to note-passing to sleeping to the quintessential distraction these days: texting. And while texting has revolutionized the way in which we communicate, does it have a place in the classroom? A survey of students at the University of New Hampshire found high rates of texting during class and a great deal of guilt about that behavior to go along with it. The majority of students surveyed admitted they felt guilty for sending text messages in class when they were not supposed to but despite those sentiments, a whopping 80 percent said they normally send at least one text message in each of their classes.

According to the survey, which was conducted by student researchers at the UNH Whittemore School of Business and Economics, many students don’t believe that texting should be allowed in class, 49 percent felt guilty in class when it’s not allowed, 51 percent are distracted from class material when they text and 51 percent said they are prohibited from texting in up to half of their classes. The survey also showed that women were more likely to send text messages than men. "I wasn't surprised by the results, but I was surprised to see that some teachers didn't prohibit texting in their classes," said Gretchen Eastman, one of the lead student researchers on the study.

The survey looked at the texting behavior of students and researchers will present their findings at the university’s undergraduate research conference in late April. Let us know what you think. Do you feel bad about texting in class? Do u think txting in class can b distracting 4 u?


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