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 and Fall 2024 [Un]Classes

Dragonflies and damselfies of Northeastern Ohio [Un]ClassDragonflies and Damselfies of Northeastern Ohio [Un]Class

T&TH 12-4:30 p.m.
Summer - first 5 weeks

Dr. Randy Mitchell & Judy Semroc

Join author Semroc and UA Biology Professor Mitchell to explore the diversity and biology of this fascinating group of insects. Meets at the UA Field Station (Bath Nature Preserve). Learn more.

Register here

Zips Talk Together: exploring mental health [Un]ClassZips Talk Together: exploring mental health [Un]Class

MWF 11 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.
Summer - second 5 weeks

Alison Doehring and Anna Ball

Working together to develop a mental health de-stigmatization campaign for UA. Guided by experts in communication, student support and counseling, this course will explore and immerse you in the topic of mental health. Course participants will get to design marketing materials, promotional items, and programs centered on wellness, self-care and mental health awareness.

Get out the vote Akron [Un]ClassGet out the vote Akron [Un]Class

POLIT 392-003/690:001
Schedule varies
Fall - first 9 weeks

Cherie Strachan

Students will engage with Asian Services in Action (ASIA) and the campus community to help with voter registration efforts. By assisting with voter registration in the new immigrant community, students will become familiar with Akron politics.

Out of the archives: exploring Akron's LGBTQ+ history [Un]Class"Out" of the archives: exploring Akron's LGBTQ+ history [Un]Class

MW 3:30-4:45 p.m.

Hillary Nunn and Tony Pankuch

Students will learn about the nuances of LGBTQ+ historical research through an open-ended exploration of narratives in local archival repositories. Dive into the archives to identify relevant materials about LBGTQ+ figures, organizations and events. Aided by contextual research and community outreach, they will share their findings publicly and work to ethically create resources for others seeking access to the Rubber City's queer stories.

Zips recenter together: Designing campus space [Un]ClassZips recenter together: Designing campus space [Un]Class

MWF 12:55-2:45 p.m.
Fall - first 7 weeks

Alison Doehring and Anna Ball

Leave your mark on campus by designing a campus space + exploring mental health and self-care resources. Building from the design success of the re:center, located on the third floor of the Jean Hower Taber Student Union, this course will redesign a lounge on campus.

[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.


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.