Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Ask the Administrator: Friday Classes and Enrollments

A patient correspondent writes:

I'm hoping that you and your wise and worldly readers can help sort out some contradictory claims I've been running across in regards to academic scheduling. 

A few years ago you did a post contemplating reducing Friday classes to save students and faculty some gas money; I keep hearing about more community colleges that are eliminate Monday-Wednesday-Friday classes in favor of Monday-Wednesday classes for a number of reasons, including potential enrollment increases. Students avoid Fridays like the plague, the argument goes, so more students are likely to pick a particular CC if they can easily schedule their classes in fewer days. Since many CC students work part-time, it is common to prefer to schedule classes so that they are only on campus twice a week; having day time classes meeting MW or TR makes that much easier to do. I've also heard of several CCs looking to move in this direction surveying their students and finding many report that they'd be willing to take more afternoon classes if they can avoid Friday classes. And at most CCs, TR classes fill faster than MWF classes. An added benefit is that a few once-a-week Friday three-hour classes can be added and faculty have more time to meet when everyone's free. 

Yet recently, I hear just as many community colleges moving in the opposite direction. A lack of Friday classes is a massive under-utilization of scarce classroom space, the pro-MWF folks argue; MWF schedules are more efficient because they allow for more class periods, especially during prime time when you can squeeze an extra 25% out of your available seats (MWF 10,11,12,1 vs. MW 9:30,11,12:30). The pro-MW claim that students would rather take more MW afternoon classes than MWF morning/midday classes is suspect when the data show that afternoon classes tend to be among the last to fill up (hence the term "bowling hour"). And if faculty were scheduled to teach on Friday, would they really show up for meetings and office hours?

I suspect that there is some middle-ground (CCs that do both many MWF and many MW classes), but I'm wondering how much that has to do with individual departments with professors that either don't like Fridays themselves or just prefer longer classes. I'd love to hear about as many other people's experiences with MWF vs. MW as possible (and it would be great if there are any MW folks who've seen Friday used as a productive day for faculty work).

You’d think that online and hybrid classes would have settled this by now, but they really haven’t.  (“Bowling hour,” I assume, refers to being able to bowl in the hallways at 4:00 and not hit anybody.)  The Friday question remains.

So I’ll throw it open to my wise and worldly readers, especially those who have worked in both MWF and MW systems.  Does one version work better than the other, particularly in a community college setting in which most students have jobs?

Have a question?  Ask the Administrator at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com.