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Courses One Course At a Time Plan

  1. May 4, 2012 #1
    "One Course At a Time Plan"


    What do you guys think about this? Instead of taking 8 courses a year, that is four per semester, you get to take each course in a block of 3.5 weeks. You take a total of 8 classes throughout the year which amounts to 28 weeks of the year.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 4, 2012 #2
    Re: "One Course At a Time Plan"

    Count me in. I can't stand taking many courses at once because I feel that we never dig deep into the subjects. I usually self study after the semester ends because there simply wasn't enough time to pause and soak up the material.

    Some courses complement each other so well that they should be taken together. I would love to see a Calc and physics combined course, not "calc-based physics" but get a math and a physics professor together to lecture back to back literally in the same room. Whoever can go first explaining whatever topic then the other one can translate it into their own words from that other perspective. It just seems like the math and physics departments are constantly speaking in different tongues. I know math is about proofs but for calculus it seems so natural to explain it through physics.
  4. May 4, 2012 #3
    Re: "One Course At a Time Plan"

    For some reason that I can't imagine, students were claiming that OCAAT (one course at a time) is harder. I imagine it being easier because you stay consistent on things and waste less time, with the benefit of forgetting less.

    The thing that scares me is the commitment needed. When I get bored of a subject, I just jump on to the next one. In cornell, if I get bored of a subject--it will haunt me for three and a half weeks. And sometimes breaks from a certain subject gives a great boost to your interest. So I see OCAAT as a possibly dangerous commitment.

    One thing that is good about OCAAT is that you can take always take calculus first, and then physics. So by the time you enter physics, you have a good understanding of calculus.

    Calculus becomes more beautiful and convincing through physics, IMO. Though the problem with combining calculus and physics is that introductory physics is a large topic on its own and you generally use very little of what you've learned in calculus.
  5. May 4, 2012 #4
    Re: "One Course At a Time Plan"

    My coworker's son is at Cornell College and loves the schedule. He has a mild form of ADHD and while he did well enough in High School - he struggled with having to prioritize his classwork.

    One of my issues with this could be that you DONT learn to prioritize well. Part of the "College Experience" is learning to prioritize and deal with the stresses of multiple different activities. This, while well intended, could have negative consequences for the work ethic of their graduates. They may know the material fine, but be unable to cope/prioritize/etc.

    Also, if you have to miss a day for whatever reason it's like missing a week of a traditional class. But, to counter this (and the cornell college website explains this) is that the intensive schedule allows a class to take a field trip or excursion easier. Imagine taking a 3 week archaeology class, you spend 1 week in the class room, fly to some ruins in mexico for a few days, fly back and then spend another week in the class. You don't have to worry about conflicts with other classes, so as an instructor you can basically do what you need to do in the several weeks.

    Conversely - this would be horrible for literature or reading classes. Can you imagine reading 5-6 (class appropriate) books over the course of 3 weeks? I enjoy to read, but going through several hundred pages a day is NOT what I would call fun (or even doable for some).
  6. May 4, 2012 #5
    Re: "One Course At a Time Plan"

    I really like the idea, but 3.5 weeks? I have got stuck on a topic for a few days before. Though, I guess not worrying about other courses would reduce that stuck time, however, I found that some things just require a little contemplation and then one day it just clicks. Hopefully it clicks for these fellows during those 3.5 weeks.
  7. May 4, 2012 #6
    Re: "One Course At a Time Plan"

    What happens when you have to do this for courses that you have to take, but really don't like? Or courses where the prof isn't very good? There's a number of courses that I haven't liked, but have done well in since I was able to switch to something else when studying for that class got too tiresome or frustrating. I would have learned very little from those courses and probably would have nearly failed them if forced to do them all in one go.

    It's not a terrible idea, but I think the problem is just that it removes almost entirely the student's flexibility in choosing which classes they need to/want to spend more or less time on.
  8. May 5, 2012 #7
    Re: "One Course At a Time Plan"

    This sounds incredibly hard. Alot harder than "traditional" schedules.
  9. May 5, 2012 #8


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    Re: "One Course At a Time Plan"

    Sounds like it would be great for some people and horrible for others.

    I think it's great there is someone though offering this alternative.
  10. May 5, 2012 #9
    Re: "One Course At a Time Plan"

    Most of the courses at the university I attend has this kind of scheduling. The main difference being that we do 8-10 courses/year, 1 course/month. Sometimes it's great, sometimes it's not so great. One potential problem is that if you get stuck or fall behind, chances are that you wont be able to catch up again. One of the great things is that you can -- and at least here we are encouraged to -- progress pretty fast, and take courses that you wouldn't be able to take until your second year if you did semester-long courses, in your first semester. Maybe you aren't allowed to do it like that at Cornell College, but if you are, then it's great.
  11. May 6, 2012 #10
    Re: "One Course At a Time Plan"

    I thought about it for a bit, and it sounds good for other classes that aren't physics and mathematics. Primarily because of what Quarkcharmer noted, but then again, it sounds like there is a lot of group activities and they won't move on until it really clicks. They probably go into a bit more depth, and they can because they don't have other subjects to be distracted from

    Though the negative seems to be--what if your bored? You can't jump to another subject if you get stuck either.
  12. May 7, 2012 #11
    Re: "One Course At a Time Plan"

    University of Phoenix does this. However the most advanced math that they teach is Algebra II. It works well both for students and instructors in that if you decide to teach a class, it's a one month commitment rather than a three month one.

    It would be an interesting experiment to try to teach math and science this way. There are some problems that I can see in that physics takes some time to "gel" and people vary wildly in the speed at which they can pick up math.
  13. May 8, 2012 #12


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    Re: "One Course At a Time Plan"

    I suppose it is a logical extension of the general trend towards modular courses and exams (I suspect the UK has been catching up with the US over this for the last decade). The consequences of teaching to the tests, and cramming enough to pass the next test rather than learning the subject, seem fairly clear.

    But why stop at a 3.5 week course? With modern technology it should be possible to give everybody a 5 minute quiz at the end of every lecture. Then, students could get a degree without having to remember ANYTHING for more than an hour. [/IRONY]
  14. May 8, 2012 #13


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    Re: "One Course At a Time Plan"

    I find the idea very interesting to try. However I'm not sure one has the time to learn heavy courses such as the upper level undergraduate EM or quantum mechanics first halves, in less than 1 month.
    For example my EM 1 course has a lot of new math and also englobes Jackson's textbook up to chapter 5 included. We have 8 hours (4 hours for the lecture, 4 hours of solving problems out of Jackson's book) of this course per week and yet we struggle to solve the exercises in the book and I'm sure it's not because we lack time due to other courses. Most of these exercises are long, aren't straightforward to solve and they are numerous. Most students seek a lot of help from the TA (we have 1 TA per ~10 students).
    Personally, I know I wouldn't be able to learn deeply or even slightly more than superficially this course if I was given only one month to master it; even if I was involved only in this course.
    The same would apply for the QM 1 course. In fact, now that I think about it, I'm skeptical this would work for any course from the 3rd year or so.
    But if the method already work, there must be some reason(s) I'm missing.
  15. May 8, 2012 #14
    Re: "One Course At a Time Plan"

    Here is another place that uses this approach:
    http://www.questu.ca/academics/the_block_plan.php [Broken]

    Others have made good comments but I will add a couple more:


    You can't adjust your class load to balance other commitments (work, family, etc.). It is all or nothing.

    Don't get sick or miss any classes. Don't fall behind or you will regret it.

    It is even more dependent on the professor to carefully craft the course with the right pace and work-load for the time span available. You need to hope the university has scheduled the course progression so you don't have to make hard choices and miss rarely-taught courses.

    Some people just need a fixed about of time to work on something before they fully understand it. You can compress learning some things, but not others.


    You can focus on one thing really clearly. Your attention is not split (This part would be very good for my learning style).

    The professor is not splitting their teaching as is (hopefully) more engaged in the course as well.

    If you want/need to take 3.5 weeks off in the middle of a semester, you can. You aren't tied to the usual holidays in the academic calendar. There is more flexibility to take courses over only part of the summer.

    Field work (as mentioned by mege) is possible.

    I suspect most of the places using this model have smaller class sizes and are much more teaching-intensive. They have probably thought through the pros and cons carefully. I don't think it would work as well for the 300-seat service courses many people might be thinking of.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  16. May 8, 2012 #15
    Re: "One Course At a Time Plan"

    Very good point Sankaku. It might be possible that getting stuck on a concept isn't an issue because you are in an environment where the sole focus is to ground the concepts as much as possible. I was looking at some pictures and it looks to be a guided process, where the students work together to overcome the obstacles, with the aid of the professor of course.
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