Many students, parents, and college administrators view “small class sizes” as indicative of a good education. Similarly, U.S. News gives an edge to schools with small class sizes in its annual rankings.
Colleges are usually reluctant to go against popular opinion and create courses with large numbers of students. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that, at least in some cases, large classes can be wildly successful.
The Chronicle of Higher Education recently profiled John Boyer, a geography instructor at Virginia Tech, who had 2,670 students in his “World Regions” course last fall. Boyer’s charisma has made “World Regions” one of the most popular courses at Virginia Tech. Due to the large number of students he reaches, Boyer has been able to draw major guest speakers such as Aung San Suu Kyi—a member of Myanma Parliament and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate—and Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen—stars of a recent movie about the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain
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