EX[L] [Un]Classes

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What is an [Un]class?

The [Un]class concept grew organically from conversations about innovating in the classroom. Today [Un]classes serve as an interdisciplinary ‘playground’ for students, faculty, and community-stakeholders to work together to experiment with various approaches to problem-solving and respond collaboratively to opportunities and challenges in our shared community. Drawing on open-space teaching concepts and the principles of unlearning, [Un]classes provide a uniquely Akron experience for applied learning.

At their core, [Un]classes are:

  • Transdisciplinary, problem-focused examinations of real-world issues
  • Community-engaged, action-oriented, co-created solutions
  • Hands-on, applied experiential learning
  • Experimental, dynamic, and responsive to local needs

Small class sizes mean that faculty and students work closely together to craft the class as it unfolds. Students have a voice in the course design, topics of study, and projects. Community-engaged learning lets students apply this information beyond the classroom, learn from peers, instructors, and community partners from varied backgrounds, and develop problem-solving, communication, and teamwork skills. [Un]classes offer an opportunity to connect fields of study to real-world issues participants feel passionate about.

[Un]classes are guided by the following student learning outcomes:

  1. Through the [Un]class experience, students will exercise imagination(s) and creative problem-solving skills
  2. Through the [Un]class experience, students will demonstrate transformative growth through self-discovery
  3. Through the [Un]class experience, students will display greater awareness of local issues and connection to Akron/the University of Akron

The particulars:

  1. [Un]classes can be used to satisfy Honors Colloquia requirements; talk to your advisor or EX[L] Center co-director Dr. Christin Seher (cseher@uakron.edu) to learn more.
  2. Some [Un]classes may be used to satisfy the Complex Systems General Education requirement. Should you seek GenEd credit, you must talk to your professor within the first two weeks of class.
  3. Register for the course under the number and department in which it is listed; if the course number is controlled or has a pre-requisite, reach out to the instructor of record for help. To seek independent study (IS) credit in another unit, contact Dr. Seher.

Summer 2022 [Un]Classes

Sweet Reminders [Un]ClassSweet Reminders [Un]Class

Historical recipes from the Hower Family
7760:421
(Special Problems in Dietetics)

Monday
Noon to 2 p.m.
May 16 - July 10

Amy Stevens

Fall back in time and learn techniques of candy making as we bring to life Akron's past. Using recipes from the Hower family from the early 1900s we will explore the process of bringing a food product to market, including testing and finalizing candy recipes, designing packaging and labeling, branding and sales. This experience is a companion to the [Un]class "Meals and Manuscripts at Hower House: Digital Projects in the Archives" however students may register for this class independently.

Community members can register here.

Zips Grow Together [Un]ClassZips Grow Together [Un]Class

Zips Grow Together
1870:370:004

T W TH
11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
May 17 - June 2

Ali Doehring

Working with ZipAssist, the Campus Cupboard, a team of UA faculty and staff, and a variety of community partners, this [Un]Class will collectively explore, vision, and create an outdoor learning lab and mental health oasis that helps alleviate food insecurity on our campus.

Over the course of three weeks, we will transform campus space into a community garden. Come prepared to be creative and get your hands dirty! No experience necessary! Also, this course satisfies the requirements of the Williams Honors College as a Natural Science Colloquium.

Community members can register here.

Spring 2022 [Un]Classes

anchoring ourselves in akron [Un]ClassAnchoring Ourselves in Akron [Un]Class

A Community Engaged Research Project
7760:450

T/TH
3:30 - 4:45 p.m.

Dr. Amber Ferris

Are you interested in improving your research skills while gaining practical, hands-on experience to list on your resume? We are looking for students from all majors to work on a cross-campus research project examining how organizations build trust in communities. Students will work as a team to design a survey and interview protocol, talk with stakeholders in Akron, and explore data analysis and visualization techniques. This [Un]class will hone skills in collaboration, communication, and community-based research and is particularly relevant for students looking at careers in communication, business, nonprofit/government, education, marketing, and community outreach/engagement.

Design Your Life [Un]ClassDesign Your Life [Un]Class

3300:489/589

T/TH
10:45 a.m. - Noon
Olin 127

Dr. Heather Braun

This hands-on course helps students solve actionable problems using the framework of design thinking. Students will collaborate with local APS students, community stakeholders, and local professionals, developing empathy, creative confidence, and teambuilding skills, and designing multiple pathways for college success.

Discover the UA Museum of Zoology [Un]ClassDiscover the UA Museum of Zoology [Un]Class

A Natural History Mystery
5500:480-001 OR 3100:495-610

Wednesday
12:55 - 3:25 p.m.
ASEC D415

Dr. Lara Roketenetz & Dr. Gary Holliday

Students will engage in a combination of detective work, biology, archives, art, and education/outreach to prepare a collection of taxidermied birds donated to UA by the Rhodes family in the early 1900s for public access and exhibition. Students will have the opportunity to learn from leading experts regarding the historical significance of biological collections, proper preservation protocols, digitizing and archival practices, and the urgency of science education and communication for a public audience. Campus and community partners include experts from local museums, nature centers, and UA's Cummings Center for the History of Psychology.

Sweet Reminders [Un]ClassMenus and Manuscripts Hower House [Un]Class

Digital Projects in the Archives
3300: 489/589

T / TH
2 - 3:15 p.m.

Dr. Hillary Nunn

In this hands-on course, we’ll explore the central role that food, cooking, and entertaining played at the Hower House in the early twentieth century. We’ll use tools like blogs, websites, digital archives, and Instagram feeds to bring archival research to new audiences, and we’ll prepare a cookbook for print publication to showcase the Hower family’s recipes. In the process, we’ll learn not just about the era’s food and parties but about the wide array of people involved in their production. No special experience with digital tools required.

[Un]class FAQs

[Un]classes are graded and are taken for credit, but they probably look different from a traditional lecture-based class. Rather than following a tightly prescribed syllabus and course schedule, with predetermined expectations for assignments, readings, and tests, [Un]classes begin with the exploration of an idea or problem – and they unfold from there!

Some [Un]classes are more structured than others, but a hallmark of the [Un]class experience is that students take an active role in designing course projects and shaping course content, working closely with their team of instructors and community partners to co-create the course in real time. You should expect the course to change and respond as the team examines and considers their problem from various angles and readjusts their focus accordingly.

A successful [Un]class looks different every time, and the products of an [Un]class will vary from typical assignments like papers, portfolios, or presentations, to non-typical products like acts of activism/advocacy, service to the community, organized events, reports to community partners – the sky is the limit. Most [Un]class instructors will have a loose idea of grade components and structure to launch the class and will work with students to determine the final grade components.

Because of this ambiguity, students who thrive in [Un]classes are typically flexible, good communicators, open to hearing new ideas/perspectives, able to work successfully in teams, and willing to take risks and see things fail. [Un]classes require creative thinking, curiosity, and the passion to work on real-world problems. If you are considering enrolling in an [Un]class but are concerned about the learning structure, reach out to the instructor of record or an EX[L] co-director to talk it through before making your decision so they can help make sure this learning environment is one in which you will be successful.

Yes! 

An [Un]class is a credit-bearing, graded course that maybe used to satisfy a component in the General Education distribution, to fulfill an Honors Colloquium requirement, or as an elective upper division course or independent study.  There may be additional requirements, however, to earn credit within specific departments and not all [Un]classes will qualify.  You should speak with your advisor and the instructor of the course if you are taking an [Un]class for Gen Ed or Honors credit, and with your major advisor if looking to use an [Un]class to fulfill degree requirements.

Did you know that students, faculty, staff, and community partners all can propose an [Un]class? Ideas for [Un]classes are reviewed by the EX[L] co-directors and a sub-committee of our Faculty Steering Committee on an ongoing basis, with full proposals sought in the fall and spring in a competitive process. If you have an idea, follow these simple steps to let us know:

Check that your idea meets the core elements of an [Un]class. Is the class you are proposing:

  • Problem-focused
  • Transdisciplinary, engaging multiple campus and community stakeholders
  • Hands-on, applied experiential learning
  • Responsive to local needs

When you are ready to submit your [Un]class idea, complete the interest form, which should include a brief description of your idea.

See all our past [Un]Classes

[Un]Class News

  • Watch the News Channel 5 segment on UA's 'Trash Class' that has students dumpster diving to learn about sustainability.
  • Read about A Natural History Mystery that had students giving a makeover to an old UA collection.
  • Read how our [Un]classes have become a successful educational experiment.
  • Watch the documentary History in Motion, to hear how Dr. Martha Santos merged her two passions: salsa and history, to create this unique unclass.

  • Go behind the scenes of Akron's lost history in The Forgotten Dead. Filmed by UA student, Claire Pugel this video takes you into the unclass about unearthing the secrets of Akron's Schneider Park.

  • All the World’s A Classroom is a site created by the unclass with the same name, that combined Arts and Sciences with the College of Education students in an exploration of smart outdoor education concepts that are positive not apocalyptic in our contemporary world’s sustainability challenges. The site also provides tools for K - 12 science educators.

  • Courtney Malita writes about the The Impact of the "Unclass:" Breaking from the Traditional Classroom and the benefits she gained from taking "Unearthing the Paranormal: Ghosts of Akron's Past."

  • The unclass "Unearthing the Paranormal: Ghosts of Akron's Past" let anthropology students research "haunted" history and practice in-the-field interviewing techniques as they explored ghost stories surrounding Akron's Schneider Park and mass graves.

  • The Cummings Center's Institute for Human Science and Culture wrote about UA's "Digital Humanities in the Archives" unclass in its blog post, "In an Unclass of its Own." Students learned archiving skills and how to make items accessible to the public and to scholars.