March 28th, 2008, 08:39 AM
How Honors Programs Can Enhance the Undergraduate Experience for Adult Students
Eckerd is a private liberal arts college in St. Petersburg, Florida. The PEL Honors program (a "Program for Experienced Learners") is targeted at nonresidential adult students. The program offers accelerated eight week terms, experiential learning credit, outstanding instructors, a variety of academic programs, small classes, personal attention, career services, directed study courses, and study abroad opportunities
We serve a very large geographic area in Florida. Our students come from many different locations and all walks of life. What we tried to do was create a program that enhanced their learning experience and made them critical readers, rather than a program that emphasized research. We are trying to meet the needs of the twenty percent not served by "ordinary" routes through college.
We invite students into the program after they have matriculated into the college. We have them take two special five-hour honors classes on Saturdays. The program requires dedication for that reason alone. They do take two other classes that are designated as honors classes, and we require faculty to go more in depth in their lessons. We invite about seven domain experts into our classrooms in order to expose them to a lot of different discipline perspectives.
There are two major ways of expressing ourselves in an intellectual manner: writing and oral presentation. We end the year with a symposium that forms a linear tie that unites all of the students in each cohort. We've budgeted for lunch in the classroom. It's a good time for free discussion. We also have a bulletin board we call Speakeasy. Some of our students blossom in the bulletin board environment in a way that they are unable to do in the Saturday morning classroom. Adult students can hang out with each other in a way that is not always available to them otherwise.