Jonathan Leonberger took a seat toward the back of room 103, Innovation Hall’s largest lecture hall, as his 236 classmates began to fill the 287-seat auditorium.

“One of the fascinating things about sitting this far back is that you are able to see what all of the other students are doing,” said Leonberger, a sophomore marketing major at George Mason University.

One by one, students pulled out their notebooks and laptops.

“In a class of 236, paying attention is a choice rather than a requirement,” Leonberger said as he pulled out his i>clicker2 handset, which are used in large classes to perform tasks ranging from taking attendance to administering quizzes

The classroom of antiquity was not the large lecture hall with rows of students squished together listening to a teacher’s monologue but an arena of interactive and explorative philosophical thought.

Socrates created a method of interactive teaching known today as the Socratic Method. He used thought-provoking questions to force students to examine their own beliefs and form hypotheses.

The Socratic classroom was an open forum of discussion for the betterment of both the student and the teacher. With successive technological advances, we seem to have strayed from this method of learning and its quest for higher knowledge.

Leonberger’s class certainly did not seem to be on a quest for higher knowledge. While many students in the class were busy doing work for other courses and browsing the Internet, the professor just continued talking, pacing about on stage and flipping through the slides.

Leonberger tries to attend all of his classes including the ones he finds boring.

“I treat school like work, and you don’t just skip work,” Leonberger said. “If I end up doing poorly but went to every class, I don’t feel bad.”

Leonberger’s 3.33 GPA certainly reflects his dedication and his if-there’s-a-will-there’s-a-way attitude.

“Some professors try to make things interesting,” Leonberger said, “but others just don’t seem to care. They just go through the motions.”

Leonberger said that a lot of the business courses are like that.

“It is very one-sided learning. The classes are too big for it to be interactive,” Leonberger said.

He explained that while it helps to have interesting and engaging teachers, in the end it is the student’s responsibility to pick up the slack if a teacher falls short. Unfortunately, not every student has that kind of dedication.

“It is assembly-line education,” said Robert Gabay, a senior Spanish and anthropology double major, who had a similar experience during his sophomore year. “Batch by batch, get them in, get them out.”

Gabay had a prerequisite math course in the same 287-seat auditorium of Innovation Hall.

“It was definitely the worst class I have had to take at Mason,” Gabay said. “There were maybe 220 students in the class, and 99 percent of the time the assistant was the one teaching the course.

He would take the time to ask if you understood, but sitting in the back, you aren’t really able to communicate effectively. It wasn’t an atmosphere I felt motivated to immerse myself in.”

Rick Reo, a senior member of Mason’s Division of Instructional Technology and an adjunct professor, provided some enlightening perspective on class structure.

“A lot of the prerequisite courses are built to be fair. All of the sections are the same,” Reo said.

According to Reo, having the instructors of each section teaching the same material means that each student, regardless of which instructor teaching the class, will have the same opportunity to succeed in the course.

As an adjunct professor, Reo is provided with the material that he then delivers to the students in his IT classes.

“A lot of these prerequisite courses have to be structured and standardized,” Reo said.

According to Reo, this classroom structure allows for consistency across the board and it “keeps things manageable.”

Leonberger and Gabay both used i>clickers in their courses.

“It is a sneaky way to mandate attendance,” Leonberger said. “In general, I don’t find the questions helpful.”

Class sizes in excess of 200 students bring about many logistical problems. Handing out and collecting pop quizzes or tracking attendance by calling roll becomes increasingly difficult as the class size increases. These challenges are easily resolved by incorporating the use of i>clickers. There is no need for instructors to try and learn their students’ names. A small remote control will make sure students receive the points that they earn.

DoIT at Mason works to help teach professors how to use technology in classrooms.

“I teach instructors how to set up and use Blackboard, PowerPoint and other online resources,” Reo said.

Ideally, these resources are meant to enhance the classroom experience and allow instructors to connect with the students.

“Unfortunately, you can only do so much,” Reo said. “Even with technology, there is still going to be that kind of animosity in the larger classrooms.”

Reo added that while interaction is not always achievable, instructors still have the ability to engage the students.

“When class begins, you have 20 minutes to engage them — to catch their interest — or you end up losing them completely,” Reo said.

The key to connecting with the students starts with getting — and keeping — their attention.

“Every 20 minutes, do something else. Get the students involved, have a small discussion, show a video that relates to the material,” Reo said.

Keeping students engaged becomes difficult in the larger classrooms, but it is certainly possible. Leonberger’s favorite course at Mason had less to do with the course itself than with how his professor, Stacey Verardo, taught the course.

“She was passionate about the subject to the point where it was infectious,” Leonberger said. “The class had more than 100 students, but she was still able to keep your attention. She used PowerPoint presentations, but she actually explained the slides, telling personal stories that related to the material and throwing in little anecdotes and pictures.”

One of Gabay’s favorite courses was a prerequisite that actually inspired him to change his major.

“I took an anthropology course with Susan Trencher, and she really challenged the class to look at the world from different perspectives,” Gabay said. “When she explained different concepts, she would use everyday examples to make the material relatable.”

Not every prerequisite course is going to interest every student, but that should not mean that instructors should stop trying. A teacher’s goal should be to inspire, and a student’s goal should be to inquire — regardless of the class size.