Monday, January 25, 2016
When Mondays Become Thursdays
It's not ideal, because students don't always "get" that Monday is a class day but the rest of the week is just finals, and it doesn't leave any days for a quiet period before exams, but it does solve the date imbalance issue.
Ideally we'd start counting our final exam time as part of the academic calendar and trim the semester down a week (like thousands of other colleges and universities seem to do - but somehow we can't for "accreditation reasons" that, uh, don't seem to affect those other colleges and universities). But that's a separate issue.
Personally, I find the conversion day system easier to work with because it means that every semester the same course -- and all sections -- have the same number of labs and lectures. On the let-the-holidays-fall-where-they-may system, we have to plan the lab schedule around the day of the week with the least meetings, and how many labs that equals will vary from semester to semester.
Students get the academic calendar well before registration so they have ample time to make accommodations for the one or two conversion days each semester.
I'm not a fan of the replace-a-Monday-class-with-online-learning model because online teaching methodology is different than in-person teaching methodology and one cannot simply substitute for another on one particular session of the course. No, looking at pictures of microorganisms on the internet is not an equivalent substitute for Monday students to learn how to make a wet mount slide and focus a real microscope.
Personally, I think those problems are the worst part of a semester system. We get 14 weeks plus finals (total of 28 weeks of instruction for a one-year course) while I first learned in a 10 week plus finals (total of 30 weeks of instruction) term system that started after Labor Day and ignored President's Day, etc. It is rather surprising, but it turns out you can teach classes even when the mail isn't delivered and the banks are closed.
But I agree 100% that it is easier to teach classes that have the same format and collection of holidays. Several colleagues in math make a point of teaching totally different courses on the Tue-Thurs schedule so they don't end up with the same course on two different calendars.
Start on Thursday during Fall Semester - this gives you your Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving without sacrificing anything. Doesn't help with the Jewish holidays
Cancel all Monday Holidays: This creates the same problems as the Mondays as Thursdays and then some because all daycare is closed on President's Day leaving faculty and students in the lurch. Drives me crazy every year - avoid this solution.
I love the replace holidays with online learning but it does create problems with labs. For most classes though, I think it works fine. OMG this is one of the only professions where employees can throw up their hands, decide technology is the devil and deliberately not learn how to do something that is (at this point) a standard integral part of current practice. I believe the official term for this is "cray". Possibly "cray cray".
As a random rant, my kid's grade school *didn't* give off MLK day, but did give off half a day on Friday of that week. I have no idea if they were trying to create an even number of Fridays or something, but it was bizarre.
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