Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The 50-minute class period is dead

Welcome to Fall 2007 semester, our first term under the compressed calendar system. When the faculty voted in favor of trimming a week and half from the 18-week semester, it became necessary to lengthen class periods to make up for the lost time. Under the old system, a 5-unit class usually met daily for 18 weeks. That's a total of 5 × 18 = 90 class hours. A normal class "hour" is 50 minutes, so we end up with 90 × 50 = 4500 minutes. We have to fit those minutes into 16.5 weeks.

One more complication: Most classes under the compressed calendar are offered on only two- or four-day schedules. Daily classes are now few. Class periods must be longer to make up for both fewer weeks and fewer days. My Math 100 class this semester meets four days a week, Monday through Thursday, from 7:00 till 8:05, a 65-minutes period. The total number of minutes for the compressed semester is 16.5 × 4 × 65 = 4290. That turns out to be just over 95% of the usual 4500 minutes, which is enough to comply with state education requirements. We will recover some additional time because fewer class meetings should mean less time lost to settling down at the beginning or packing up at the end.

The compressed calendar is full of challenges, making it more difficult to create schedules that fit together neatly. Take careful note of the beginning and ending times of your classes, because these vary significantly from what they used to be.

Good luck with your classes in this semester of experimentation.

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