Monday, January 06, 2014

Saving Students from Themselves

This one is really looking for advice.

Like many colleges, mine has a January Intersession.  Intersession is two weeks long, and the courses are intense.  They’re taken by a blend of our own students and visiting students from other colleges who are looking to pick up some gen ed credits during the break.

The logic behind intersession is that there can be a real pedagogical benefit to focusing intently and solely on one thing at a time.  Doing nothing but, say, sociology for four and a half hours a day for two weeks can work for some people.  It doesn’t work for all classes, but it works remarkably well for some.  (It’s particularly good for classes with labs that require long, uninterrupted blocs of time.)  Many of the classes are online, which gets around the issue of snow days -- a very real prospect in Massachusetts in January -- but even those assume that the student is only doing one thing.

For the most part, it has worked quite well.  The course completion rates for intersession have been in the 90’s for the last several years, and the anecdotal feedback from faculty has confirmed that the students have stepped up.  Students tend to self-select; those who would thrive in the “boot camp” format seek it out; those who want nothing to do with it, don’t.

But every so often, a student comes along with a different angle on the universe.

We hadn’t set a formal maximum on the number of intersession courses a student could take, mostly because we didn’t really believe that it would be necessary.

Let’s just say that not every student quite grasped the concept of focusing on one thing.  

So, my question to my wise and worldly readers.  If your college has an intersession or something like it, do you have a maximum number of classes or credits that a student can take at one time?  If so, what did you base it on?