8-week terms can trip up nontraditional students

 

        Illustration by Anthony Lazon/The ETCetera

 

Shorter course terms can be problematic for those seeking a restart later in life.

I’ve had a few experiences with shorter terms now and would like to present the perspective of a nontraditional college student.

I’m older than most, but there are a significant number of students at Eastfield that are over 30, so I’m far from alone in that. According to college data, about a quarter of the enrolled students are over 25 and 10 percent are over 35.

People in my age group tend to be working full-time jobs, have young children or give care to their elderly parents.

Some haven’t been in a classroom in decades, which can make the accelerated pace challenging. As it has been for me. Sometimes significantly so. Online courses are particularly difficult, as they require more time to begin with.

I can imagine these challenges to be all the worse for our students that speak English as a second language. Does the accelerated pace of learning and less time with the instructor to adjust for their needs put them at further disadvantage? How about those with special learning needs, like dyslexia?

The administration has said that there is good data to back up the move, but my experience has been trying. When I go to register for courses, I often at least consider whether I should take fewer credit hours. The shorter class is going to take more of my time outside of the classroom to get the same absorption and retention out of it, and I’m sure I don’t always manage it as well as I would in a full term. I’m curious if the data being referenced includes long-term studies on retention, especially for in-degree courses.

I’m not opposed to eight-week terms for non-degree related electives and courses like PE.

However, in-degree classes prepare you for the rest of your life, and every ounce a student can squeeze out of it is gold. I’m also not opposed to eight-week term options, so long as there are 16-week term choices for all in-degree and rigorous courses such as math, which many students struggle with.

Eight-week schedules also impact the instructors. They now have to present 16 weeks of information in half the time. Which means they have twice as much to grade, with half the time to get to know the students and their needs.

Putting this pressure on professors could cause experienced faculty to seek employment elsewhere. I’m also curious if faculty members feel they can give the same quality education in eight weeks compared to 16?

Eastfield isn’t a four-year university mainly servicing young adults right out of high school. Community colleges like Eastfield help keep some of us from falling through the gaps.

We have a large number of students that come to community college because for one reason or another it better fits their needs than a traditional four-year institution. Let’s not complicate that any more than we have to.

— Erick Krouskop is a digital media major and graphics editor for The Et Cetera.

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