5

My school is currently on a 14 week schedule where we're supposed to have 14 Mondays, 14 Tuesdays, etc. each semester. Because of various holidays, that's harder than it sounds, and so we have a couple days that have to get adjusted; for instance, tomorrow is a calendrical Wednesday, but an academic Monday.

This has some drawbacks: some students have outside commitments (for instance, jobs) which don't shift just because our schedule does, and because the modified days always happen on short weeks, compliance is limited. (For instance, it's already hard enough to get students to stay around for classes on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, but it's really hard to get students who have class on Friday to realize when they make Thanksgiving plans that Friday classes meet on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.)

How do other institutions deal with this, and are there any particularly good solutions to it?

  • 12
    This sounds like an unreasonably complicated system. Why exactly do you need Wednesdays to be Mondays? (Google wasn't very helpful.) – 101010111100 Jan 11 '17 at 0:16
  • 1
    @101010111100: We need to have the same number of Mondays and Wednesdays in the semester. But there are several weeks in the semester with Monday holidays, so those Mondays need to be made up somehow. I believe we're making up one by ending on a Monday and one by starting with a Monday, even though the calendar says Wednesday. – Henry Jan 11 '17 at 0:21
  • 6
    At my school, I just lose three Mondays from my M/W class and none from my T/Th classes ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ – Azor Ahai Jan 11 '17 at 1:03
  • 1
    My experience in one institution was the same as yours: the missed days were put in at the end of the semester, with the 'day's being adjusted as needed. Another ignored the holidays (timing of teaching was such that this was not too much of a problem). Another simply reallocated teaching from those days to any appropriate slot (students are expected to be available for all teaching slots, so it's their problem if they can't make it). – Jessica B Jan 11 '17 at 13:32
  • They day is skipped, and the skipping is planned beforehand. punishing the students for bad planning of the course instructor is a No-No. it doesn't matter how many mondays you're supposed to have, you know when christmas is and when thanksgiving is (or 4tth july, or 1rst may in europe). plan accordingly. – CptEric Jan 12 '17 at 10:01
5

Make up days at the end of semester

The solution that I saw used is that for certain subjects, where one of "their" days fell on a holiday, the semester was one week longer, i.e. the break was shorter. Your described solution was not considered feasible - transferring a Friday class to Wednesday would fail because (a) there would be some students who have also chosen the Wednesday class and would have to be in two places at once; (b) there might be also a similar collision for lecturers who teach multiple classes and (c) there weren't enough facilities to host all the usual Wednesday classes plus all the usual Friday classes at once.

Skip them

Another reasonable possibility is to reduce the number of lectures. If it's known well in advance, it's no problem for a lecturer to take a course that usually is split in 14 lectures and teach it in 13 - and they can shift part of that material to extra reading and homework in the "empty" week where the lecture doesn't happen but students do have the rest of the week available.

2

First of all, let me re-iterate what thisismynamenow wrote in this his now deleted answer - if you are in a position to do so, re-consider whether this requirement is important enough that you are willing to go through administrative and managerial hassle for it. Like thisismynamenow, I think most schools just live with the fact that some classes in some years "lose" a session or two due to public holidays.

You should also note that one reason why students don't like this solution is that it essentially "punishes" them for having a public holiday - "hurray, Friday is off, so now we need to get the same classes done in 4 days". In a way your current planning removes the point of having a public holiday - you are just moving classes so that students don't need to sit in class on a public holiday without actually reducing the workload on students in this week. Essentially, if for example Friday is a "day off", the students now spend more time than regularly in class Monday to Thursday, and maybe then need to catch up on their homework and assignments on their "day off" because they did not get to it as much as regularly during the week.

If having a fixed number of classes per course is really important to you, you should at least communicate these changes to the schedule differently. Your current way to phrase this seems ungodly complicated to me:

tomorrow is a calendrical Wednesday, but an academic Monday.

Why not just announce (for each class that needs to be moved) that the class planned for week 3 has been moved to Monday (same time) due to the public holiday on Wednesday, rather than messing around with "renaming" days?

This of course does not change the fact that students are encumbered by your change of schedule, and I really don't think there is a good way to fix this (other than announcing all moved sessions as early as possible, i.e., at the beginning of the semester, which I expect you are already doing).

If these class changes happen frequently enough, it may make sense to discard the notion of a fixed weekly schedule entirely. In my alma mater, for smaller advanced classes, we basically had no fixed weekly meeting time. Instead, some weeks did not have sessions at all (replaced for instance with more time for projects, home work, or self study) while others had longer sessions (e.g., when we presented semester projects, classes would last at least a full afternoon). The weeks where we had regular sessions did not necessarily all happen at the same time and day, but were scheduled individually based on availability of rooms, course requirements, and, for small courses, taking individual student constraints into account.

  • Indeed. From year to year, I have fluctuations of a few hours on the total number of lecture hours delivered in a course. – Massimo Ortolano Jan 11 '17 at 10:22
  • I've never heard that complaint from students, and I'm not sure why they would have it. They don't have extra work that week, it's a longer semester that compensates. Relatedly, I'm not sure why you talk about students spending more time than regular on the other days; I don't see at all why this causes them to have more work on a day (on average). – Henry Jan 11 '17 at 14:15
  • @Henry Because the point of a holiday day is to have less work over a week. – Massimo Ortolano Jan 11 '17 at 15:49
  • @MassimoOrtolano: Yes, I understand that. What I don't understand is why xLeitix (and apparently you) think that's not the case under the system I described. – Henry Jan 11 '17 at 15:54
  • @Henry As I understand from your question, if you are saying that your students might have outside commitments on a certain day, to me it means that, usually, on that day, they wouldn't have lecture. Is it right this interpretation? – Massimo Ortolano Jan 11 '17 at 16:47
1

My institution (a small private college in the US that uses semesters) does it this way:

  1. Most Federal holidays happen on Mondays (e.g., Presidents' day, MLK day, etc.) but we're a private institution, so we ignore them for purposes of instruction. That means there are instruction days which support staff have as holidays.

  2. Each semester is 15 calendar weeks with 14 weeks of instruction. That leaves one week of break each semester. In the spring, it's a contiguous week ('Spring Break'). In the fall, we have a Monday and Tuesday "Fall Break" around the middle of the semester, and then Wednesday through Friday off at Thanksgiving.

This strategy gives a standard 14 days of instruction per semester for each day of the week. We do occasionally have campus events that cause classes to be cancelled (we inaugurated a new college president last fall; we typically have a day to showcase student research in the spring; on very, very rare occasions we'll have a snow day), but we don't try to make them up in any formal way.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.