Each college creates a course schedule to serve its needs. Whatever the individual college’s schedule looks like, your student’s college schedule will certainly look very different from his high school schedule. Students spend much less time in class in college and are expected to spend much more time outside of class reading and preparing. The general rule of thumb is for students to spend two hours outside of class for each hour spent in class. Students often spend 2 – 4 hours per week, per course, in class.
Most colleges and universities have a mix of class meeting times. Some classes might meet for shorter periods of time three times per week, others might meet twice per week, and still others might meet for a longer period once per week. Students often mix and match a combination of classes.
There is, however, one radically different approach used by approximately a dozen or so colleges in the United States called “Block Scheduling” or “One Course At A Time (OCAAT) Scheduling.” It is a unique approach.
In block scheduling, students take only one course at a time for approximately 3-4 weeks followed by a short break of a few days. Students then begin a new course. Courses meet daily for 3-5 hours at a time and cover the same amount of material as traditional semester courses. Block classes tend to be smaller and more discussion based. At the end of the year, students will have taken the same number of courses as those with more traditional schedules, but in short, intense units rather than juggling 4-5 courses at any given time.
Block scheduling is a unique approach to a college education and may be just the right thing for some students, but may not be right for others. These courses may allow for deeper focus in some subjects and/or allow for more experiential activities. If a student does not like a class, or is not doing well in a class, that class is all there is so there is no relief. However, the class only lasts for a short period of time. There is less time to develop relationships with other students in the class, but those relationships that do develop may be more intense because of the intensity of time spent together. This type of class may be good for students who tend to procrastinate because there is no time to waste; however there is also no leeway, so true procrastinators may have no time to make up for delayed work.
Because faculty members also teach only one course at a time, they also have an opportunity to immerse themselves into the subject matter with their students. This can lead to very intense learning communities. This type of scheduling for both students and faculty may also allow for extended off-campus experiences or field trips, as neither students nor faculty members have competing classes. One element that may be lost as students and faculty participate in only one course at a time is the ability to find the interrelatedness of courses. Each course may be seen as an isolated element. Finding common themes and subject matter may be more difficult.
Block scheduling is not for every student. The immersion into one subject can be intense and beneficial, or it can be painful and too short to allow for students to acclimate. Students who are considering a college based on this plan should carefully consider the realities of this unique approach. Make sure that your student is familiar with the meaning of the term.
Some colleges currently using block scheduling in some form include: Colorado College, Cornell College (Iowa), Maharishi University of Management, University of Montana-Western, Tusculum College, University of Southern Nevada, Keiser University, Spalding University, Quest College (Canada).