By Shae McCoy
Over the last few years UB freshmen have been able to connect and work closely with their fellow students through the learning communities. A new program, starting this year, should help take that sense of community even further.
Learning communities consist of classes that are linked, and the small groups of students that take those courses for a single semester. This strategy is used to improve student outcomes. Professors get to come together to create a curriculum and students get familiar with each other. This is a great socializing tool for freshmen. During the duration of these classes there is time in between that is usually used to either catch up on work, go to get food, or to socialize.
Elizabeth Nix, associate professor of History in the college of arts and sciences, has taught in the first year program since 2007, when it started. Nix is part of a committee at the University of Baltimore that is introducing the Common Hour for fall freshmen. It will be a time set aside from 12:30 p.m. to 1:50 pm Mon-Thurs, for freshmen to work on group projects, visit their professors, have events, eat, and explore the campus. The common hour will take place between their first two classes and their afternoon classes. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m. students will receive notifications about events. On Mondays and Thursdays, students are expected to use that free time to finish work, work on their group projects and catch up on any reading they might have for classes.
The Common Hour was brought about to make life easier for the freshmen, who have have responsibilities outside of school such as picking up siblings and going to work. These students usually find it hard to dedicate a decent amount of time to school work. Nix says that Common Hour is an “attempt for first year students to have a common time where they weren’t taking a class, but they were on campus because of the learning community structure, and to figure out how they can best use all of the resources of UB.” Results from a survey that is administered at the end of the year also contributed to this idea. The results indicated that students are not able to spend much time on their work.
Nix explained that this program is starting with freshmen, but a plan may be in motion to expand Common Hour to sophomore students and eventually create a culture for the whole university. Nix hopes that this will send a hint to student organizations as far as organizing events so that they happen during Common Hour. There will be a kick off event on September 12, 2017 at 12:30 p.m., located on Gordon Plaza.