Armstrong Launches First Class

(Feb 2, 2013) In Fall 2012, Armstrong launched the pilot program of a new learning community for first-year students, First Class. First Class is Armstrong's proposed SACS Quality Enhancement Plan created to help first-year Pirates be successful students and to teach them how to search for and use information effectively at the college level—also known as information literacy.

While life in the Information Age has greatly expanded the availability and accessibility of information, the sheer volume and variable quality of it can thwart the learning process. Information literacy helps individuals use the abundance of information successfully and effectively. With First Class, students will learn how to find, evaluate, and use information, while also learning how to juggle academics and college life.

“College is a big step for all students, and those coming directly from high school will need to develop many skills in order to be successful,” said Armstrong's Director of First Year Experience, Herbert Bruce. “We created the First Class learning community to help students make the adjustments right from the start. They will have the opportunity to learn how to do college-level research in the seminar while investigating a topic through their core class. Not many college students will do this type of research in their first semester, but at Armstrong they will.”

“In high school, they tried to teach us how to write college-style research papers, but it wasn't very clear, because they tried to teach it all at once,” said Jaz'Myne Nixon ('16), a communication sciences and disorders major. “In First Class, I get to learn how to do it step by step--what kind of articles to look for and how to cite them.”

The First Class learning communities consist of a one-hour seminar linked to a core course. They also help break the ice for new students. The classes are small, and because the same students are in each seminar and core class, it is easier for new students to engage with each other and by extension, the university.

“Having the first-year experience class and spending so much time with my peers in that class has helped me get involved with other people around the school,” explained criminal justice major Ernistina Moya ('16).

The seminars do not just focus on the classroom side of the college experience. First Class also educates students on the importance of getting involved on campus, all towards the goal of helping them adjust to college life and successfully manage enriching extracurricular activities and academics at the same time. Time management, learning at a college level, and taking advantage of campus resources are key topics in First Class.

“I do think first class is beneficial for incoming freshman,” added Nixon, “because you get to learn what the university is about. I had no idea there was a math tutoring center and a writing center, and I learned all of that in my seminar.”