One of the common selling points colleges and universities pitch in their marketing materials is a low teacher-to-student ratio. Taking a class with a relatively small number of students, often 25 or fewer, does offer several benefits relative to a general education class in a large lecture hall at a university.
Small classes are more often taught by tenured full or associate professors. Some of the overflowing lecture hall classes at universities are taught by graduate assistants. This means that your instruction in a small class comes from one of the most qualified people the college has to offer in most cases. This can enhance both the depth and overall quality of your education, and professors typically have both researched and professional experience to offer.
Another direct instructor-related benefit is easy accessibility. In a class of 20 to 25 students, you have an excellent opportunity to get to know your professor and build a personal connection. Over a 15-week semester, the professor has a chance to get to know each student. This usually makes it easier for you to ask questions in class and to seek outside instruction and help than it would if you were a nameless face in a large group.
Active student participation and engagement is usually emphasized in small classes. Professors combine lecture with interaction discussion questions and small group activities. These are much easier to facilitate and manage with a small group. In a class of 200 or 300 students, you may not even get a good look at the instructor. In a smaller class, you have a chance to participate regularly in class discussions and to hear the thoughts and ideas of peers. Social interaction and relationship-building with peers is also more feasible in a small class setting.
In a small class, it is easier for your instructor to offer regular and thorough feedback on your performance. First, your instructor is the one grading your assignments, which isn't always the case in large lecture classes, where graduate assistants often grade. A professor may have more time and willingness to write thorough comments on assignments and papers with fewer students, which helps you improve your work. As you build rapport, he may also begin to share informal feedback through conversation. Your access to the professor also allows you to seek out grade status and advice often.
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.