Thursday, January 17, 2008

Two-Year and Four-Year Students

Having now worked in both a four-year university and a two-year community college, my first impressions of the students are not what the stereotypes would suggest.

The community college, ironically, has less of a sense of community. Most students taking my classes are taking them alone, not with a large group of friends. I think this is partly because of the lack of dorms and other 24/7 student activity on campus, and partly because a large percentage of students are only taking classes part-time.

The community college is far more diverse. Between my two classes I have people from five or six different countries, with an age range that varies from "working professionals with 20 years experience" down to "high-school students taking advanced classes that their school doesn't offer". In a four-year school you're seeing mostly college-age students, with a disproportionate number of locals (or at least, that's what I've seen). I must say, I've grown used to being the oldest person in my classes, and it feels strange when that's not the case anymore.

Community college students seem, generally, to be more prepared before taking a class. More than half of my game industry students knew who Shigeru Miyamoto is (one even recognized Gunpei Yokoi's name), and most had heard common industry terms like AAA and ROI and LOD. In my four-year classrooms, it's usually more in the 10-20% range. If I had to guess, I'd say this is because community college students tend to be older (and therefore more experienced) and also more self-directed. Not every student is a superstar, but there seem to be a greater proportion that are above the curve. (If you were in my classes last year and you're reading this, I'm obviously not talking about you as being anything other than spectacular, of course.)

Most of my community college students are not planning on just getting a two-year degree and stopping. The majority either already have a Bachelor's (or higher) and are branching out into a new field, or they're just getting their general education credits out of the way (where the tuition is cheap) and then they'll transfer to a four-year institution.

I was expecting to have to deal with a lower caliber of student at a community college, but I've been pleasantly surprised.


Lewis said...

Was this an evening class, not part of a game development degree? Evening classes at CC tend to have older and "more serious" students than the day classes, though the average age of students at one of my old CC was 24 or 25.

More recently, in a two year degree for game development, the median age was only 20. Student preparation was very poor, however.

Four-year school students are going to tend to be almost all 18-23 years old, CC students range much more widely.

Ian Schreiber said...

Both classes are during the day.

The Game Industry class definitely skews younger than the more business/IT-oriented System Analysis, but even Game Industry median is older than it was at the four-year school.

We don't have a game-related major yet. That starts this coming Fall. Until then, I'm offering some of the future required courses just to get a head start on things (and honestly, it's not like there isn't some student interest once they realize the course exists :).