But Missouri Western is showing students that's not necessarily true.
"We have embraced the idea of applied learning," said Dr. David Ashley, MWSU Professor of Biology.
Taking classroom learning and applying it in the field is exactly what some Missouri Western students have done through their help in the discovery of a brand new virus.
"It's been an opportunity for our students to get involved in field work, lab work and network with professional public health people," said Dr. Ashley.
Dr. Scott Folk from Heartland Health spoke to students Wednesday evening showing how the newly discovered Heartland Virus has provided a learning opportunity.
"The collegial triangle that has evolved between public health and Missouri Western and Heartland Health," said Dr. Folk
The tick-born Heartland Virus can get people very sick and was first identified by Dr. Folk. His study into the virus continues through work with the Centers for Disease Control and Missouri Western.
"They've been here many times now to collect ticks, to collect blood samples from animals," said Dr. Folk. "They are still very much a part of the investigation."
The CDC says Western students have been a big help.
"They've helped in trapping animals and for trapping ticks. All of that we could not have done without the help of Missouri Western students."
Many of the students who participated with the virus study are moving on to medical school or veterinary school
"I'm writing letters of recommendation for them now and I'm able to say that this young man or this young woman has been able to substantially contribute to the discovery of potential vectors for a newly described pathogen," said Dr. Ashley.
And the experience gained through research on the Heartland Virus is almost as rare as the virus itself.
"It's probably unheard of for a school our size to have any input into discoveries like this," Dr. Ashley said.
Western plans on a series of applied learning lectures. Their next one will be in February and will show student participation in the development of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in St. Joseph.