Students teach peers through ‘Burst the Bubble’ program

This January, Elon University students will have the option to take classes on dance, pop culture and art. They will also have the opportunity to teach them.

Elon’s Burst the Bubble program, a series of mini-courses offered during Winter Term, was started by now-retired Lela Faye Rich, director of Academic Advising and Career Services, five years ago.

“She felt students didn’t have enough structured opportunities outside of class time during Winter Term,” said Brian O’Shea, assistant to the vice president for Student Life and dean of students. “She had thought about the idea of students teaching students for some time. It worked out that winter term was the best time for the program given the limited length of time, as well.”

The program is designed to offer students different, interesting and alternative workshops to balance their traditional academic workload. Unlike usual classes, there is typically no grade or credit earned for one of the unique courses.

The biggest difference between traditional courses and the Burst the Bubble program is the absence of a professor.

In January, junior Elisabeth Maselli taught South Park Politics. The course participants watched an episode of the series during each class session and discussed the themes raised in the show.

“It was cool hearing the point of view of several different students,” Maselli said, “especially those who I didn’t know prior to teaching the class.”

Teaching peers is an important part of the program, but in 2009 Burst the Bubble opened the process to organizations in addition to individual students.

“This has been successful as a means of organizations showing others who they are and what they do as well as get additional instructors involved,” O’Shea said. “We are careful to make organizations aware that the opportunity shouldn’t be seen as a recruitment tool and students may choose to participate with the organization after Winter Term but shouldn’t be pressured to do so.”

Organizations such as the Student Union Board and the National Pan-Hellenic Council Executive Board have taught courses in past years. This year, individual students are expected to teach between 10 and 14 classes, the maximum Elon will offer.

“We typically receive between 15 and 18 proposals,” O’Shea said. “We try to accept all if possible, but sometimes after discussing the workshop students decide not to teach the course or we determine it would be too difficult given time restraints.”

Although they cannot all be offered, each class selected is designed to give students an alternative to the rigorous course offerings of the traditional Winter Term.

“We seek courses that are light and fun,” he said. “Courses that require a lot of time to understand end up not being popular because students are generally looking to just try something new and join other students doing something fun.”

Students enrolled in Burst the Bubble classes are not the only ones having a good time.

“It was so fun,” Maselli said. “The best part was definitely the freedom and flexibility. It’s a really solid program.”

O’Shea said he expects students will be excited by the program’s courses offered in January.

“We have another exciting year of workshops, including great current event discussions, knitting and crochet classes and the ever– popular dance courses, ” he said.

A full list of courses and registration instructions is now available.

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