With the UCI Road World Championships running directly through campus in late September, VCU had a choice to make — shun the nine-day race or embrace it. The school, which will suspend regular classes during the event, has chosen to engage with it in various ways. Perhaps most unusually, it will offer 29 courses examining the sport through a range of disciplines, from film studies (“students will place the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond in a global context through the examination of international films and simultaneous creation of visual and audio products”) to physics (“the science of bicycling will be explored by measuring and observing key physical principles of the cyclists”).
The one-credit classes run from Aug. 24 through Oct. 9 and cost just $50 (a significant discount from regular tuition, which can be as high as $352.50 per credit for a Virginia resident taking less than 15 credits a semester). In addition to five graded classes, the vast majority of the courses will be online — something of a necessity given the difficulties the race will cause in getting around campus — and pass/fail.
“We wanted to maximize the joys of learning without being overly formal in our approach,” says Gardner Campbell, VCU’s vice provost for learning innovation and student success, who worked with Cathy Howard, VCU’s vice provost for community engagement, to solicit course proposals. The work produced in these classes will be assembled on the Web under the title The Great VCU Bike Race Book (greatvcubikeracebook.net) before, during and after the race, acting as a virtual record of the event.
“Being a part of this city, you get these opportunities that you wouldn’t get in other places,” Howard says. “This is what makes coming to a university in the city a unique learning opportunity, that you can have all of these out of classroom possibilities.”