The Daily Gamecock

USC Common Courses offered for class of 2016

Program combines housing, U101, core classes to build bonds

Students of the incoming class in Fall 2012 have been offered the option of enrolling in USC Connect's newest initiative known as Common Courses. 

Common Courses will combine students in University 101 classes and required core classes, such as introductory science, sociology and English classes. For example, the 19 students in a single University 101 class who choose the biology 101 route will all attend the same 200-person lecture biology class.

Those same 19 students will also stay in the same residence halls — Columbia Hall, East Quad, McBryde or Patterson Hall — in a type of living-learning community.

"By linking students with two or three courses together, those 20 students are embedded in, for example, a big biology class but are always in U101 together," said Gene Luna, associate vice president for students affairs and director of student development and university housing.

University officials strive for the students participating in Common Courses to connect what they're learning in general education classes to the real-life lessons taught in U101 and experienced in college.

"Research has told us that students don't often connect the Carolina Core (general education) to their majors," Luna said. "The reason the university has the first two years of liberal education is because it teaches you how to think, and how to seek answers and be curious about stuff ... It prepares you to go into that major and be able to better connect your course of study with the rest of the world."

Kelsey Vess, an incoming freshman for the upcoming fall semester, made the decision to participate in a Common Course while signing up for housing. More than 300 students have already applied to participate, and the university is expecting that number to double by May, according to Luna.

"I thought it'd be a good way to make friends and create study groups," Vess said. "Knowing people in a large class like psychology 101 will help reduce stress and increase my likelihood of getting a good grade."

Vess said her only opposition to the program is the chance that she could become isolated from other students. Based off studies and programs at other colleges and USC's own 2010-11 60-person test group, Luna believes students will still branch out.

"We talked about that a good bit," Luna said. "We don't want isolation. What we have seen is — embedded in larger classes — students are going to connect with other students."

One of the major reasons for implementing Common Courses is to help increase USC's retention rate from 86 percent to 90 percent, according to Luna. In addition, other institutions such as the University of Missouri have seen an increase of up to half of a GPA point when comparing students participating in Common Courses or living and learning communities to nonparticipants.

Second-year history student and resident mentor Bradley Wiggins also believes Common Courses will be beneficial in building bonds among dorm residents, as well as increasing academic success.

"I have a few girls on my hall who already study together for classes like anatomy even if though they aren't in the same class sections," Wiggins said. "It'd be great if students with similar majors who live together could all be in the same class. I think you'd see an increase in GPAs and class participation. I'm really glad to see something similar like that happening with next year's freshman class."