15 Weeks vs. 7.5 Weeks vs. 12 Weeks (Online)

I stumbled across this blog entry by Liz Kleinfeld lamenting the length of the 15 week semester the other day; essentially, she contemplates the potentially benefits of a 10 or so week semester.

Actually, I more or less experienced this with my first tenure-track job at Southern Oregon because they were on the quarter system. If I recall, it was either 9 or 10 weeks, including finals. Now, I had a number of problems with this job, so perhaps my judgement about the quarter system has been tainted. Nonetheless, I thought it was not a good idea for a couple of different reasons. First, while I appreciate the notion that 15 weeks is perhaps too long, 10 weeks is too short. There was just too much work for both students and instructors crammed into those 10 weeks. Second, and this was perhaps a problem unique to Southern Oregon, but a typical course there was four credits, meaning you met either four times a week or twice for about two hours at a time. Combine this with the fact that most people taught three courses like this for three quarters in a row and you’ve got some stressed-out and over-worked folks.

Third, the quarter system meant that the school year lasted WAAAAY too long. We started in mid-September and went all the way through early June, which made schooling a rather unpleasant experience for students and teachers alike in mid-May. Which reminds me: EMU wrapped up winter term classes last week (technically, my classes had finals on Monday).

No, ten weeks wasn’t good. Of course, the way that most of the spring and summer courses are taught here at EMU isn’t necessarily a very good idea, either. Spring term (the term we just had, which most schools call “spring,” is actually called “winter” term here) starts on Monday, May 8 and goes through the end of June, and summer runs from then until the third or so week in August– in other words, 7 and a half weeks.

Now, these 7.5 week courses do meet for about six hours a week, and, given that it’s the spring and/or summer terms, this does work reasonably well. But it isn’t ideal, and, in my experiences, it makes teaching writing and/or a course with a ton of reading a bit of a high-wire act.

Which brings me to this year’s 12 week experiment. This spring/summer, I’ve managed to carve out a deal where I will be teaching an online class, English 328, for 12 weeks. I thought that teaching an online class in just seven and a half weeks was just crazy, and I also thought that 12 weeks sounded just about right. We’ll see how it turns out; I hope it goes well because I like the idea of teaching online in the summer (if I’m going to teach then at all…).

3 thoughts on “15 Weeks vs. 7.5 Weeks vs. 12 Weeks (Online)”

  1. Oh, you reminded me of my own experience with a 12 week semester. Two years ago, I convinced my dean to let me teach a class during fall semester that would begin when the regular 15-week classes began but end at Thanksgiving. The idea was that we would promote it as a class for people who wanted to be able to be done before Thanksgiving. The class was one of the best I’ve taught–no end-of-the-semester slump. But who knows if it was the 12-week format or some other dynamic in the class that kept the slump away. I had completely forgotten about that semester. I want to know how your 12-week course goes.

    (And just for the record, I don’t think there’s a magic semester length that makes everything go swimmingly, but I DO think 15 weeks is too long for the kind of sustained energy a really good course requires from both students and instructor.)

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