Tuesday, August 01, 2006

In praise of four week classes

It's the final week of my summer class. I almost always enjoy summer classes. The focus that comes with four intense weeks can be quite wonderful, both for me and for the students. In fact, it makes me sometimes wish that I could teach only summer classes, that is, that I could teach only short sessions. At Cornell College, where my friend I. went to school, they basically do just that: they call it One-Course-at-a-Time

In the FAQs, the question of why more colleges don't use this system is posed. The answer:

The OCAAT calendar makes great demands on faculty. They must reorganize their course plans, their use of time, and their way of thinking about teaching. This is a challenge few college faculties are willing to consider. OCAAT also makes great demands on classroom space because rooms are not shared. Each professor has exclusive use of his or her classroom for the entire day. The college bookstore orders books nine times a year, not just twice. The registrar's office handles registration on an ongoing basis, not just once a year. Few colleges are willing to make these commitments.)

But the demands on faculty sound ok to me: rethinking use of time and space. I like that. In fact, I think it might be the shortness of the four weeks that made me feel ok about trying out something new: if it bombs, I thought, at least I only have to live with the fallout for a few weeks.

Still, I think the professors teach eight or nine classes a year at Cornell College. That's a lot of start-up. But what about importing it to a research university? Just four to six classes a year? Wouldn't be so bad, would it? And that would leave six to eight months for full-time research. Wow.

Back to reality: it's the last week of my summer class. And, of course, it's always a nice thing to come to the end of things. But it's been a good time. Thanks to my students, thanks to my fellow bloggers.

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