The purpose of this project is to help freshmen prepare for 8 week classes. We believe many of us coming in were not properly prepared for what 8 week classes were and how to succeed in them. Adjusting and managing 8 week classes is not easy. It takes time and effort. When we came in the pace of the classes was very shocking and difficult and we did not want the incoming freshman to make the same mistakes we did. To determine this topic we talked to other classmates and asked if they struggled with the 8 week schedules too. This helped us gain an understanding for the issues 8 week schedules pose, and how to prepare and adjust to it to make it benefit you. 8 week classes do bring about new difficulties, but once you’re adjusted have several benefits.
In past years Odessa college implemented 8 week schedules and after 5 years of doing this, they noticed, “The direct and immediate benefits have been increased enrollment, increased rate of benchmark credit attainment toward a degree, and increased semester-to-semester persistence” (http://www.regalo-hakui.com/docs/envisioned/
improving-student-outcomes-utilizing-8-week-courses.pdf.) Know that these 8 week classes can and will help you, you just have to learn how to succeed in them which will further be explained in this project.
What are 8 week blocks?
Eight week block schedules are a type of class scheduling that condenses 16 week courses, down to eight weeks. This allows students to have fewer classes at once so they have less classes they have to dedicate time to. However, the same amount of work that was done in 16 weeks is expected to be done in 8 weeks, so much of the students’ time outside of class will be devoted to teaching themselves content, or doing assignments that may have previously been done in class time. You still get the same amount of credit hours that you would have with a normal 16 week schedule, but the classes are just more split up with content being taught at a faster pace. For example, I’m a biology major and in these first 8 weeks I am taking Biology, Biology Lab, First Year Studies, and Communications. Next 8 weeks I’m scheduled to take Chemistry, Chemistry Lab, and Math. In a 16 week schedule I would be required to take all of these classes at once.
What are the benefits?
“Making the decision to move to 8-week blocks for most of the courses at UPIKE was a difficult one. When COVID hit and we made the decision to move online in mid-March, several people were relieved that we hadn’t needed to make that decision before Spring Break. On my leadership team, several people, including Dr. Werth, had taught in programs that were fully online. Online education has been around for more than 20 years, but has come to the forefront of higher education in the last 10 years. Needless to say, we have learned quite a lot about what works and what does not in online learning. Being online for 16 weeks is, quite frankly, too long. Since we didn’t know whether we would be able to re-open face to face in the fall, we thought the best decision would be to prepare as if we needed to be online and that is what started the conversation about 8-week blocks.
Dr. Werth and others worked throughout the spring and much of the summer researching other schools who had shifted to 8-weeks trying to understand what worked well and what didn’t. We learned many unexpected things. For example, 8-week block education is not new in higher education. In fact, many universities use this format regularly. As we researched the topic in the higher education literature, we were surprised to discover that 8 and 16 week instructional periods were at least equivalent to one another in terms of student learning outcomes. Indeed, many of the studies indicate that students in the 8-week block frequently outperformed those in the 16-week semester. When looking into other colleges utilizing 8 week schedules, Oklahoma city community college stood out due to their reasoning for switching to 8 week classes. They described 8 week classes as, “Both national and OCCC research shows higher student performance in the 8-week format. National research demonstrates that exposing students to information more often, an immersion approach, results in higher success for students” (https://www.occc.edu/8weeks/.) Of course the crucial question is whether this data holds true at UPIKE. While it is far too early to know for certain, we can tell you that students performed better on mid-term grades this year than they did last year. Assuming we get a vaccine in place and can resume normal activities sometime in 2021, our plan is to make it through the fall semester (2020), examine the UPIKE data, compare it to the literature, work with the faculty and then make a decision about whether we stay with the 8-week block or move back to the more traditional 16-week semester.” -Dr.Webb, President of UPIKE
What are the struggles?
Video response by UPIKE student Bailey Birchfield
“Condensing a course that has been historically delivered in 16 weeks down to half that amount of time has been a truly daunting task. It has required ruthless editing of content, hours of deliberation of value and delivery methods, and more than a few tears. But it has forced me to take a much more critical look at what I ask my students to do and why. “ -Kim Willard
How to fix the struggles:
The top picture is a screenshot of google calendar. It is a free feature that you can access through google. You are able to color code your daily routine hour by hour. It is very easy to use and very convenient since it’s right on your phone, tablet, or computer! Use this to keep track of classes, practices, assignment due dates, study time, and more!
The bottom picture is the different types of planners that you can buy. Some people prefer hard copy planners that they are able to carry around with them. I can say from personal experience that using a planner during 8-week blocks has been one of the most helpful things I have done. You will be getting a lot of course work and material to study and you want to be able to keep up with it all. It helps you stay more organized and it makes it easier to split up the workload on assignments so you don’t have to spend 4 hours working on assignments in one night because you have more than one due the next day.
Splitting up work
Splitting up work becomes one of the most important things you can do within an 8 week schedule. You are expected to do 16 weeks worth of work in 8, so you will have a lot of assignments at one time. Planning properly at the beginning of each week helps you accomplish this. On Sunday night it’s beneficial to look at the assignments for the week in your online classroom, and using an item such as a planner discussed above, plan the nights you can do each assignment so you never have too many to do at once. Prioritize assignments based on due dates and the approximate amount of time each assignment will take, so you’re able to get everything you need to get done completed.
The classes are taught at such a fast pace that it can be hard to understand the content. This makes it essential to take good notes to better grasp the content, as well as to have to refer back to. In the picture below is an example of effective note taking strategies. There are several note taking strategies but this has been the most effective for me. I utilize 3 different colored pens when I take notes. The first color (purple) is for key ideas or sections. These are the main topics or ideas that you have to learn, so it’s good to have one color for these so that they stick out and you can learn more information on each of these sections. Next, is your main writing color (blue) which has the majority of information in your notes. This is the content within the key terms and is the content you have to learn. The last color (green) I use is for additional notes. This is what I deem to be unnecessary content information or just my own explanations, that work to explain the ideas written in blue. This helps get a deeper understanding of the content, as well as clarifies some topics that I may be confused about. Lastly, vocabulary is very important in many classes, especially science. Therefore I think it’s important to underline important vocabulary terms so they stick out in your notes and it is easier to learn them.
Video response from UPIKE tutor Emme Barker.
Improving Student Outcomes Utilizing 8-Week Courses: Considering Its Feasibility for Ivy Tech Community College Ron Sloan, DMA. Nov. 2017, Improving Student Outcomes Utilizing 8-Week Courses: Considering its Feasibility for Ivy Tech Community College Ron Sloan, DMA.
“8 Is Great.” Oklahoma City Community College, www.occc.edu/8weeks/.