Sunday, March 12, 2017
8 Week Semesters
But from personal experience as a CC student, full time, while working full time. I was able to take 4 classes (12 credits) by going to one 3 hour class every night, MTWTh. With commute time and such, I didn't have time to study during the week, but starting Friday afternoon and working Saturday and Sunday, I could power through the whole week's worth of work for each course. In courses where I needed guidance to do the next week's work, I'd have been unable to keep up taking two courses that met, say, 2 nights each week, since I wouldn't have had time to work in between.
As Punditus suggests, it would be super hard with math and language type courses, also writing (no time to write during the week).
What about a 10 week "quarter" as some schools use? (though fitting in a 4 hour class after a full day of work would be more difficult.)
The sorts of courses that just give a midterm and a final, I'd probably survive. The ones that do weekly or daily assignments would be much harder.
Don't read the entire thing, just skip down to section 9 on page 32. Here are two highlights if your time is limited:
1) A statistics course switched from a six-month semester to a two-month semester. The professors measured student performance before and after. The students in the longer course outperformed the students in the shorter course on the final exam.
2) Students who were taught Spanish vocabulary over a space of four months outperformed students who were taught the same material over shorter intervals. The total amount of instruction time was equal between each group.
Your plan is solid for getting our students a two-year degree in the shortest amount of time possible, but it's also going to increase the probability of their academic failure upon transfer.
I'm a bit unclear about how you would get 40 weeks of teaching on a 32-week contract, but more power to you! Do you have a system where the faculty must teach part of the summer? We have faculty that choose not to teach at all in the summer, and the younger faculty and some adjuncts are thankful for the chance to make extra money for loans and house payments with a summer overload.
I do like the idea of making my contract year a bit different from the norm. I've thought it out many times. The ony thing preventing it is that it is illegal at colleges and universities in this state because the model assumes summers are off for research at the universities and we have to follow that. Contract periods are set by the state. Probably a no-win for students as well, because many of them have seasonal work in the summer while others take huge loads.
First, my college does have 8 week semesters WITHIN the regular semester. (They are more like 7.5 weeks, because of the need to overlap final exams and grade processing before the next one starts.) They synchonize, so there are no awkward transfer situations where a CC semester ends a few days after a university's semester starts. And many of those students register for both 8-week semesters at the start, although some start the year half-way through fall or don't decide what to do until they get their grades.
Second, although my experience is limited to summer 6-week classes, math and gen-ed science does better in short semesters than your other correspondents seem to think. The reason is that the classes meet more days per week. You can ask your IR folks to check, but MWF math classes always do better than TTh classes. Our summer semester is 5 days per week, and there is little drop off from Friday. I and others have very high success rates in that format. In contrast, they forget everything from Thursday to Tuesday, so Tuesday can be like starting from scratch. It's like teaching one day a week. (Even having a quiz on Tuesday doesn't help because they forgot what they need to cram for the quiz.) The continuity of a 4-day or 5-day class schedule makes learning strategies like quiz/lecture/example on Monday followed by active learning on Tuesday - rinse and repeat - very effective.
I don't know what we would do with calculus and physics, although four 7+1-week terms might not be all that different from three 10+1-week quarters and could be better than our two 14+1 week semesters. (We rarely get 75 teaching days in a semester; 70 to 72 is more the norm.) You can package the material into units that fit any calendar. The problem with doing that is you wouldn't have room for a third class.
I suspect that the problem would be even bigger with 8-week semesters, especially if the faculty consisted mainly of freeway flyers who also taught in 15-week semesters. It takes some effort to adapt teaching styles to a faster pace, and not everyone manages to do it.
I recently split one of my courses into two quarters (going from 5+2 units in one quarter to 4 units in each of two quarters). The splitting was done to reduce the lab time per week, so that we could schedule all the needed lab sections, but it had the effect of greater student comprehension, as they had more time to digest the material.
It was terrible for students in math classes
If a class in a 10-week quarter only meets three hours per week and gets less done than a 15-week semester class, that is OK. We only give them 2/3 of a semester's worth of credit when it transfers. It is a 2-credit class to us. (We go to one decimal place when it comes out to be a fraction.) It can be messy, so warn students about a mid-year transfer from semester to quarter or vice versa!