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posted: 5/8/2017 2:03 PM

The unexpected benefits of 'twofer" classes at MCC

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  • McHenry County College students in the "Doping, Sexting and Dangerous Music" learning community course examine the pros and cons of rap music and heavy metal, such as how these genres violate social values (danger to society) versus free speech/artistic freedom. From left are Madeline Venezia, Bryan Hooghkirk and Karen Castaneda.

    McHenry County College students in the "Doping, Sexting and Dangerous Music" learning community course examine the pros and cons of rap music and heavy metal, such as how these genres violate social values (danger to society) versus free speech/artistic freedom. From left are Madeline Venezia, Bryan Hooghkirk and Karen Castaneda.
    Courtesy of McHenry County College

  • MCC instructors Jay Geller and Kate Midday (standing) talk to students about their writing assignment during the "Laugh Your (expletive) Off" learning community course. From left are students Joseph Castronovo, Paige Schnulle and Logan Card.

    MCC instructors Jay Geller and Kate Midday (standing) talk to students about their writing assignment during the "Laugh Your (expletive) Off" learning community course. From left are students Joseph Castronovo, Paige Schnulle and Logan Card.
    Courtesy of McHenry County College

 
By Donna Bieschke
McHenry County College

To create excitement for the two-minute impromptu speech he assigned to students, McHenry County College speech instructor Jay Geller filled the white board with a wide variety of topics.

After he said "Go," students, two by two, raced to the board to see who could select their topic first by erasing the word, leaving one less topic available for other classmates. Co-teacher Kate Midday reminded students to include a central idea, preview statement, and transitions in their speech.

Fernando Cruz of Woodstock was the first student to do his two-minute informative speech on the movie "Get Out."

The course -- called "Laugh Your (expletive) Off" -- combines research writing and public speaking -- and is one of MCC's growing number of learning communities courses or "Twofers" that combine two classes, giving students an opportunity to make connections between subjects and interact more with their instructors and classmates.

Students also earn credits for both classes simultaneously -- so Comp II and Speech becomes a six-credit class where students learn to write, speak, and research at the college level, all presented under the thematic umbrella of humor and comedy.

Midday, who also serves as chairwoman of the Learning Community program at MCC, said the theory behind MCC learning communities is that they encourage even more critical thinking than traditional classes while also helping students become more ethically aware, more interdisciplinary cogent, and engaged in the college itself, even outside of classroom.

Now in their 16th year, the courses are among the most popular offerings at the college and result in a higher degree of interaction between teachers and students, Midday said.

"It's a whole new way of learning that makes more sense," Midday added. "I believe that we've got to change the way we reach students -- the world is different. Students don't learn in a vacuum. Students are hyperlinked to everything in their lives. They want everything instantaneously. When students are given the opportunity to see immediately what they're learning and where it fits … it allows them to make those connections and actually apply the theory."

One of the more popular Twofers is called Talking Dirty, which pairs a psychology class, Human Sexuality, with an Ethics class.

"Students look at ethics -- this concept of right and wrong and good and evil -- through a specifically psychological sexual lens," Midday said. "Students have to think of both subjects in totally different terms, and the two subjects work cohesively."

Cruz said this is his second time taking a Twofer. He took Playing God last semester, which combined Composition I and Ethics.

"Learning communities are a really good idea. The topics are universal. It challenges the student to interact and to show up to class. It's not a chore to come to class. I look forward to it."

Dulce Lopez of Woodstock said she took this learning community class because of the convenience of taking two classes at the same time and she heard a lot of great things about the class.

"It's more efficient," Dulce said. "I'm able to use all my research for two classes instead of just one."

Doping, Sexting and Dangerous Music's Kayla Lavern of McHenry said she likes the in-class interaction.

"I like the fact that one class is based off another and students get feedback from two instructors. The topic has been eye-opening."

According to Midday, data from MCC's Office of Institutional Research shows that students in Learning Communities are nearly 20 percent more likely to stay enrolled in college than those not in a twofer class.

MCC was selected to host this year's Consortium for Illinois Learning Communities Conference in April. The vigor and innovation of the program has allowed many of its faculty to present their pedagogical and practical student success -- both locally at the consortium and at the National Learning Communities Conference -- held annually all over the country.

"Our learning communities' courses are 100 percent faculty-driven," Midday said. "We have innovative faculty who have so many good ideas. They take the time to make classes happen. You need to have a dynamic relationship between the co-teachers to be successful, otherwise, where's the passion?"

MCC offers eight learning communities courses for next fall. To view a listing, visit www.mchenry.edu/twofers.

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