Let’s Help You Thrive.
One of the most common questions we get asked by prospective transfer students is: What are FIU classes like? Well, some are large (400 students), some are small (20 students), some have LAs (Learning Assistants), others have TAs (Teaching Assistants), some are taught by top researchers, others by instructors who are practitioners in the field, some are fully online, others are hybrid, and some are even flipped! You get where we’re going with this…
Of course, our goal is that you excel regardless of size, instructor, or method. This is why we asked our faculty development team to share their knowledge of all things FIU classes and offer advice on how best to prepare for each.
In a hybrid class, the face-to-face meeting time is reduced by 50%. The other 50% of the class takes place outside of the classroom whether online, in the field or community, or some place else. This out-of-class “meeting time” is in addition to the homework and preparation assigned in all classes regardless of format.
How to Prepare. If you take a hybrid class, you will need good time management skills to make sure that you can keep up with face-to-face and out-of-class meeting times, as well as assignments and preparation. Some tasks must be completed prior to class and some after class. Paying attention to how the in- and out-of-class materials are connected is also very important.
In a flipped class, students are responsible for familiarizing themselves with the content before they attend class (this can be through web-based videos, reading the textbook, online research, problem sets, etc.). During class, students often work in groups solving problems by applying concepts, articulating their understanding of ideas in verbal and written form, clarifying difficult points, and sharing ideas with peers.
How to Prepare. If you take a flipped class, you must prioritize preparing for assignments before class so that you can actively participate and successfully complete in-class tasks.
In an online class, the content, assignments, and interactions occur fully online. However, it is important to note that many online classes require proctored, in-person exams either on campus or through a testing center, or other in-person arrangement. Much of the work is done independently and asynchronously. Occasionally, the entire class or smaller groups “meet” online to discuss or collaborate.
How to Prepare. If you take an online class, you will need to manage your time wisely so that you meet regular deadlines designed to make sure that you are up-to-date with the course. You must also have good study habits (self-discipline) and regularly access your course and/or FIU email.
Active Learning Class
Active learning is a general term that refers to all classroom activity where students engage with the course content through challenging, in-class problem solving, experimentation, student-to-student discourse and debate, role-playing, designing/using simulations, in-class writings, and/or practice exercises. While this is a different learning experience than most students are accustomed to, Active Learning classes have quickly become a favorite among students, and with learning outcomes that are as good as more traditional course settings.
How to Prepare. If you take an active learning class, you will need to interact with your peers in ways that you may not have done before. You will also need to become comfortable with work designed to challenge you and redefine what you think it means to learn. Classroom exercises can include group brainstorming, peer teaching, case studies, and concept maps. Active learning classes are designed so that students do more of the thinking, analyzing, problem-solving, evaluating, and reflecting.
LAs (or Learning Assistants)
An LA, or Learning Assistant, is an undergraduate student whose main job is to help students learn and help them learn how to learn. LAs study learning, and the most effective ways to facilitate it. They work with faculty to make active learning opportunities available in their classrooms and are well-suited to help students reach their own understanding of the material through guided questions. LAs will often ask you to explain your thinking or answer your question with a question of their own. This is good! It is a great tool in the learning process and it ensures that your voice is heard. LAs also respond to student learning obstacles very effectively, and with great insight, since they recently learned the material themselves, and understand the points of difficulty.
LAs are your peers and can also help you connect with others in your class and at the university. And by the way, if you like the work that LAs do, ask them how you can become part of the largest LA program in the nation, right here at FIU!
TAs (or Teaching Assistants)
A TA, or Teaching Assistant, is generally a graduate student whose main role is to assist faculty in the instruction of a course or a lab. TAs often lead review sessions and study groups, hold office hours, and guide laboratory experiments. They will often proctor exams and help faculty with grading. In larger classes you may have several TAs with a variety of roles.
TAs are a great resource, because they are knowledgeable about the course requirements and expectations of the professor. In large courses, they can offer insights on how to better prepare and succeed in the course. Because TAs are generally graduate students pursuing doctoral degrees in the discipline for which they are a TA, they can also be a good resource if you are considering pursuing graduate school, becoming a university professor, and/or researcher.