COM 103 & ENG 101 Link Classes

February 15, 2011

A fresh focus on the first year

By Jacqueline R. Koch 

The first semester of freshman year often is filled with unfamiliar faces in each new class, leading students to feel shy and uneasy. That's not the case for a new linked section of English written composition and oral communication, which enrolls the same 23 students in both courses.

"The familiarity that happens in linked classes like these gives students a sense of comfort with each other that makes having discussions, doing peer response, and giving speeches so much easier," says Dr. Debra Burgauer, a professor of English who teaches the written composition section. "Plus their enthusiasm level - because they chose to take these two classes together - is infectious. They are excited about learning about the natural connections between written and oral rhetorical principles and practices."

Bradley's first-year experience is designed so students become eager to learn and socialize on campus. In addition to the linked courses, Bradley offers a three-day orientation, a freshmen-only seminar, and many on-campus activities.

Dr. Burgauer and communication professor Jan Frazier began brainstorming about the linked courses five years ago and put it in place in fall 2010. Students benefit from both social and academic aspects of the classes.

"They need to make friends as freshmen, and this is an exceptionally bright group of young people; they seem to really blend well together," Frazier said. "I have a feeling that  friendships will continue long after this class is completed because they will have been together every day, every week, for the entire semester." Students research one major topic for their informative speech and essay. The linked courses allow them to delve into a subject in which they're genuinely interested.

The classes use Zotero, which allows students to take notes and find sources online, then share those sources with other students.

Students also conduct research in the library and learn research methods from library information literacy staff. "We are hoping that these research methods will carry on to their biology, political science, and international studies  those are just examples - research papers," Frazier says.

Both students and professors have benefitted from the linked courses. Linking classes takes "cooperation, time, and lots of planning," Dr. Burgauer says. "We are very committed to good speaking, writing, and research skills because we know they are fundamental to academic and real world success."