Reflections from the First Weeks of Fall Classes

July 19, 2021

Its never to late to learn!
Al B. meets with his German 101 instructor to learn more about the "flipped classroom" format, where he is expected to do homework in advance of each meeting so they can use the class time to practice their language skills. 
Resident Eric taking an Art History Class online
Eric B. takes an art historoy iCourse from his new home at Mirabella by accessing the course online: this format worked best with his travel plans during the summer semester. As part of the course, Eric had to play an online video game as if he were a cousin of the art-dealing Medici family, negotiating financial and political capital in 15th century Florence.

We are now a couple weeks into the Fall semester, so I took the opportunity to check in with the 40 residents who are taking ASU classes this semester and hear their experiences as some of the newest learners on campus. 

At Mirabella at ASU, residents are permitted to take any classes they want from the thousands of courses that are offered across all four campus (See our online course listings here). The only condition is that the instructor must approve their enrollment because credential-seeking students will get first priority if there are any limited resources (supplies, seats, etc.). Courses are offered in three learning modalities: iCourse (all online and asynchronous), ASU Sync (all online, but classes meet virtually over Zoom at specific times and dates each week), and of course, in-person classes. In-person classes might involve lecture formats or discussion or project-based pedagogies. For this reason, Mirabella learners who choose to take classes truly embody the spirit of explorers and genuine lifelong learners as they venture into these classes and discover how university instructors are teaching and students are learning at the #1 Most Innovative University in the country. 

I asked our community members what has been most enjoyable, most challenging, and most surprising about their classroom experiences so far this semester.

Here are some of their reflections:

  • “The most enjoyable experience has been the feeling of getting back to work.  We’ve written in discussion threads and replied to other students’ discussions, and that has been fun. I’m thoroughly enjoying myself!” – Laurel F. DST 394 (Disability Studies Memoir and Writing)
  • “I am participating in the choral group and band. I am enjoying them immensely.  The young voices are so accomplished and the students are so enthusiastic.  The conductor is humorous, entertaining, and above all, a great teacher. The most surprising part for me is how the conductor and the students accept our being there and their willingness to help.” – Robert S., MUP 444 (Concert Winds) and MUP 450 (Choral Union)
  • “I have been enjoying the lectures by the professor the most.  It has been interesting listening to the young people discuss the subject matter, but the professor’s context is the most important to me. Since the class addresses political and economic matters associated with the Declaration of Independence, it is helpful to review what went on during those decades and how it applies to some much of what goes on today.” – Sandy S., CEL 200 (Great Debates in American Politics and Economics)
  • “Most enjoyable: just being able to take a college level course again (without the quizzes!). Most challenging: learning the ASU systems (for the iCourses). Most surprising: how much I am learning and how stimulating this is.”  – Arnold V., MED 320 (Applied Medical and Healthcare Ethics) and ENG 352 (Short Stories)
  • “We have found the most enjoyable part to be the small class size (only about 13 students), the discussion format of the class, and the fact that there is no book to buy! The articles, which are assigned reading, are very interesting and challenge our thinking. The professor is a very good discussion leader. Listening to the student responses is also very interesting. We have found the most challenging part to be getting back and forth to the class without getting run over by skate boarders and bikers. We are changing our route to avoid those issues.” – Craig L., FIS 111 (Welcome to the Future)
  • “The most enjoyable aspect of my class thus far is the interaction between the professor and the students.  This class is totally driven by class discussion and the professor acts as a facilitator. It is fascinating to me to see the students take the ball he pitches out and run with it. The most challenging aspect has been the realization that we don’t use paper and pen anymore. I found the learning management system a real challenge. The most surprising thing has been to rediscover the challenge and fun of directed effort towards learning.” – Sandy V. CEL 200 (Great Debates in American Politics and Economics)
  • “What is most enjoyable so far is having the opportunity to leave the Mirabella environment and to learn a subject I neglected in college, surrounded by young people. We moved from a retirement community where there were no young people and where the Lifelong Learning lectures were purposely simplified to make them entertaining, as opposed to making them intellectually stimulating.” – Frank B., HST 349 (Early Middle Ages)
  • “The most surprising thing was that I expected some kind of cancel culture thing to show up around a controversial film we are watching.  All discussion, however, was very mature, even in a class of 200 students. The professor also dropped by my seat before class one day to ask how things were going in the class and about Mirabella.  I was very appreciative.” – Scott D., FMS 200 (Film and Media History)
  • “I adore the band. The most challenging part for me was making an audition video.   The best part was meeting some young people and also being seated first chair. I feel like I’m back in college again!” Emily Z., MUP 444 (Concert Winds)

Ultimately, Mirabella learners are the ones who direct their own learning experience on campus. At Mirabella at ASU, learning is not one-size-fits-all approach. No one is prescribing for you what learning looks like at this stage of your life. Each individual will determine how they want to participate in class and whether they want to complete quizzes, essays, or discussion posts. Some learners decide they don’t want to take classes at all. Instead they prefer to attend the dozens of lectures and events on campus each day. Others are happy to just attend the lectures and events we bring to our Lifelong Learning Auditorium.

Each individual brings a unique set of learning motivations, intellectual curiosities, educational backgrounds, and skills. That is the beauty of the Mirabella at ASU model. My role is simply to open as many doors and remove as many barriers as possible in order for each lifelong learner to participate fully and meaningfully on campus and in the broader university environment. 

What will your lifelong learning journey look like?