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Learn through doing in UTSC’s iExplore courses

Geology professor Nick Eyles takes his students on a field trip

UTSC students will get hands-on experience in their first year through a series of experiential classes in a new initiative called iExplore. The courses will emphasize learning through doing, giving students a chance to learn by listening to blues music, watching movies about dinosaurs or editing Wikipedia entries.

“We’re introducing experiential components to these classes. We’re able to do something to make introductory courses more exciting to incoming students,” says John Scherk, vice dean, undergraduate.

“This is very exciting,” says Rick Halpern, dean and vice-principal, academic. The classes will emphasize field trips and hands-on learning opportunities, as well as allowing first-years to work closely with senior professors.

Halpern himself will teach a course called Hellhound on My Trail: Living the Blues in the Mississippi Delta, 1880-1945. The course will use recordings of early Delta blues to examine black life and culture in the American South.  The material will provide a window on issues like land tenure patterns in agriculture, gender conventions, patterns of segregation and changing race relations.

Malcolm Campbell, vice-principal, research , will teach a course called Biology Blockbusters, which will use movies and literature to explore advances in biology and how they are perceived by the public. For instance the movie Jurassic Park will be used to explore molecular and genome biology, cell biology, developmental biology, reproductive biology and ecology. The movie GATTACA will be used to examine the science of the genome and genetics, and the ethical issues they raise.

A course called Calculus Slowly for students who aren’t well prepared for first-year calculus will create a new section for MATA30 and cover the same material, but at half the speed over two semesters. In addition to the regular material, the students will use special group exercises, games and competitions to learn the material.

In Bringing Reason to Life, students in introductory philosophy courses will invite outside speakers to debate issues being discussed in class. Students will vote on the winner and also discuss the debates in written assignments.

In Planet Earth Field Trip Nick Eyles, professor of geology, will take students on a weekend field trip of the Niagara Escarpment to explain the geologic history of Southern Ontario.

In psychology, WikiScholar will work together to correct and create Wikipedia entries about psychology.  In Poetry and Popular Culture students will look at the role of poetry in films and popular and folk music.

A suite of these courses will be offered in the summer term. It will encourage and stimulate students completing their first year at university to explore exciting intellectual avenues as they decide on a program of study for the following years.




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