College Class Size: Does It Matter?


May 21, 2013
by Mike Sheffey

Large classes or small? As colleges look to save money per student, this has become a key discussion topic. Recent studies are now showing that redesigning the typical lecture-type lesson has proved successful in large class settings, boasting higher exam results than those on the old model...but I think it really depends on the institution.

Large classes or small? As colleges look to save money per student, this has become a key discussion topic. Recent studies are now showing that redesigning the typical lecture-type lesson has proved successful in large class settings, boasting higher exam results than those on the old model...but I think it really depends on the institution.

I can only speak from experience about Wofford College: The largest class I’ve ever had had about 50 people in it (and the average class size here is 15), though I will soon find out how large classes work when I take a summer course at UNCG to fulfill a gen ed requirement in statistics. I can guarantee that in terms of building professor connections and having instructors as resources outside the classroom, small classes have the advantage but I could definitely see how this setting could be intimidating and that there could be students that flourish more in large-scale lectures.

Attendance policies also seem to be stricter at smaller schools and in smaller classrooms. In a class of 300, nobody bats an eye if somebody’s missing; in a class of 12, however, every absence is noticed. Those who are engaged and active in class will probably benefit more from smaller courses, with more direct contact with the professors. But these assumptions seem to be changing. Like I said, the lecture-style of teaching is being altered at bigger schools and being replaced by interactive and virtual courses supervised by professors or teachers. The computers seem to keep the larger classes focused and have directly contributed to better grades in the sciences and visual arts.

When determining what class size is best for you, the best thing to do is to talk to people that attend your prospective schools. How do they like the large classes? Would they recommend them? Do they take any small classes? Are their learning styles similar to yours? Results don’t lie but you know yourself better than a statistic. For me, the small classes at WoCo are where it’s at. What about you?

Mike Sheffey is a junior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.

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