McLennan Community College students enrolling for the fall will find an expanded list of shorter eight-week courses to add scheduling flexibility and, officials hope, speed progress toward a degree.
The shorter courses, half the length of a standard semesterlong 16-week course, cover the same amount of material as their longer counterparts, in much the same way as six-week summer classes.
MCC has offered a handful of eight-week courses in the past and is ramping up that number. Starting with the fall semester, 40% of the college’s core curriculum will be available in both eight- and 16-week courses, with eight-week courses making up a fifth of offered courses, vice president of instruction Fred Hills said.
Most students who take an eight-week course will find the shorter time frame means longer class periods, more homework and more online work to supplement classroom instruction. Students also will be limited to two eight-week courses at a time to avoid overloading their schedule.
Education professor Deborah Focarile has taught eight-week sequences of her learning frameworks and introduction to teaching courses over the last few semesters.
“The pace is a lot faster … and there’s almost always a due date,” Focarile said. “I think it’s a great option, but it’s not ideal for all students.”
In a semesterlong course, student attention often starts to flag around the 10th or 11th week, she said. For other students, illness, family issues or transportation problems can lead to enough absences that they fall behind and drop out.
“About October, life happens to them … and they aren’t able to finish,” Focarile said.
Those who have to drop classes can repeat them more quickly, restarting with a second eight-week course midsemester rather than waiting until the next semester. The shorter course period will also help students concentrate on the work at hand.
“It forces focus,” Dean of Arts and Sciences Chad Eggleston said. “If you miss a class or two, the stakes are a little bit higher, and there’s the psychology of earning credits sooner that gives you the sense of moving forward.”
For students who juggle classes with work schedules, eight-week courses may provide some needed flexibility by allowing clustering of classes on Mondays and Wednesdays or Tuesdays and Thursdays, with the remaining days free for work. It also may help shorten time in a degree plan with students able to cover two semester-length courses in a semester’s time.
The shorter courses are not for everyone, Hills said. Courses and instruction that require “soak time” — time in skill training or observations — will not work in a shorter time frame. As a result, science labs, some workforce courses, internships, vocal and instrumental instruction and clinical courses will continue in their current semester lengths.
Hills said MCC is following the lead of Odessa College, Amarillo College, Grayson College and several other Texas community colleges that have expanded their shorter, condensed course offerings. A spring survey of MCC students found more than half interested in the shorter courses.