Getting accustomed to semesters

At RIT we have passed the half-way point of our first semester, having made the transition from a quarter calendar this year.  I’ve been conducting an unscientific poll, which is to say asking around, about how the change is going.  The response has been mixed.

Students seem a bit overwhelmed right now, but that may be a result of going through mid-terms.  Those I’ve talked to feel that taking five classes instead of four tips the workload into critical mass.  They also point out that some faculty are struggling with the change, as well, which adds to the anxiety and occasional confusion.  That “Tuesday is Monday” in early October didn’t help.

My colleagues generally seem happy about the slower pace and shorter classes in the semester calendar.  Also attractive is the opportunity to space out long projects—a difficult undertaking in a 10-week quarter.  What’s especially nice is that now we aren’t in what seemed like a perpetual state of registration: two weeks into fall quarter we were preparing for winter.

But lecturers I spoke with recently tell a different story.  With four classes and perhaps over 100 students, they are feeling understandably overloaded.

Clearly, all of this will take some getting used to.  Students will have to juggle more subjects and be more attentive to long-term deadlines; faculty will have to space out the work and adjust to briefer classes—I’m teaching a 50-minute class for the first time in over 20 years.

However, it’s not as if we’re trying something new.  I suspect that before long we’ll only wonder why it took us so long to make the change.

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