New schedule starting at Augustana fall 2017 combines tradition and block structures
“Greater flexibility” and “development of new experiential, travel and learning opportunities” are the official aims of a new academic calendar Augustana Campus will be adopting in fall 2017.
Augustana’s new calendar block plan will consist of a 3-week session in which students will take one course for three hours a day, followed by an 11-week session in which students will take four courses. This pattern will be the same for both the fall and winter semesters, and there will also be an increase in the spring 3-week block courses.
There has not been a lot of information given to Augustana students yet. Dean Allen Berger said that there is no document that details the plans for the new schedule in their entirety and that the plan has not been modelled after another campus.
Augustana’s communication plan to inform students of the new developments begins this week, and students can expect to receive presentations about the new schedule. Campus administration is also planning a competition for students to create short films explaining the new system.
Augustana Associate Dean Academic Karsten Mundel said that one of the advantages of the block plan is that there are fewer distractions.
“Students are juggling a lot. When you move to a block system, you’re able to shut out a chunk of distractions and really immerse yourself in the subject matter for an intense period of time,” said Mundel. “We want to grow some interesting opportunities in terms of changing the learning rhythms on campus.”
Mundel said that during the 11-week period, students will only have to work around four-courses rather than five. “It’s only three weeks less than our current schedule, the hope is that it will decrease stress.”
According to a 2011 Globe and Mail article about block plan education, students are more engaged when they can focus on a single class at a time, and the flexibility within the timetable to include field work enriches the educational experience.
Mundel said that the new schedule allows Augustana to play to its strengths within international opportunities, experiential learning, local contexts such as CSL learning, field studies, undergraduate research and rural engagement.
“Our students will have the opportunity to do that kind of stuff without having it compete with their other classes. Field trips won’t be catastrophic to a student’s schedule,” said Mundel.
Quest University, a private postsecondary institution in Squamish, B.C., is the only post secondary institution in Canada that has a curriculum centered around a block schedule. Quest students focus on a single course that runs for three hours every day for 3.5 weeks.
David Helfand, president of Quest University points out that certain courses cannot be adapted to this schedule. “You can’t do a survey course of 19th-century British literature and read 10 novels by 10 different authors in that amount of time,” said Helfand.
In the last five years, when students rated their entire educational experience in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), Quest University, came out at the top of the list four times, and was second only once.
The results of the NSSE survey demonstrated that Quest University ranked high in the categories higher order learning, quantitative reasoning, collaborative learning, student faculty interaction, effective teaching practices, supportive environment and student satisfaction.
ASA Vice President Academic Hope McDonald said that she thinks 3-11 will allow students to have better “retention of knowledge.”
“It’ll be better in terms of stress levels and being able to fully grasp a course,” said McDonald. “Students will be able to really take in all of the information and manage their workloads better.”
McDonald is working to make sure that administration is “actively making sure that student voices are seriously considered.”
“My job this year is to make sure that students actually understand that this is happening. The realization is going to set in really quick,” said McDonald. McDonald said that it is okay for students to be concerned about the change, and that a lot of the concerns are related to the lack of information. “I think a lot of people think that there is a disconnect between administration and the students. It will impact students in various ways, and it’s important to be able to understand that,” said McDonald.
McDonald said she thinks the change was made to make Augustana more unique.
“We’re already a unique campus and I think they wanted to expand on that, and make Augustana even more special,” said McDonald.
On Oct. 13 at 11:30 a.m. and Oct. 14 at 12 p.m. there will be information meetings in the Learning, Advising, and Beyond office, about the new Augustana Calendar. There is also a frequently asked questions webpage students can access on MyWeb: https://myweb.augustana.ualberta.ca/students/3_11/