New changes to SNC academic calendar well received

Malia Kellerman, Reporter

The endless tapping of fingertips on keyboards fill the room and students’ faces express feelings of stress. Lamps are turned on as the sun slowly sinks behind the mountains. Tension builds in the library atmosphere as the clock ticks by. Welcome to student night life, spent in the Prim Library at Sierra Nevada College.

This year is the start of the new academic calendar implemented by Executive Vice President and Provost, Shannon Beets. SNC’s faculty and staff had been working on this new system for several years since the last round of strategic planning. This year it finally took off, starting out with a unique immersive experience in the classroom for field courses and classes of interest during the first two weeks of school. Along with the two-week immersion opportunity, the semester was shortened to 12 weeks instead of 16, but all classes are now an hour and forty-five minutes long, making up for the lost time from the shortened semester.

As the weeks pass, students and faculty have been able to experience this new approach and decide for themselves if they like the change or not.

“I think I like it. The shorter semester makes classes more intense, and we have to cover a lot more curriculum in each class,” SNC sophomore Cory Skaggs said. “It’s a lot harder to skip classes too because if you miss just one class it’s harder to get caught up than last year.”

This new system might help students’ attendance, as there is a higher consequence to skipping or missing classes.

The intensive short block allowed students to be completely present in that time, focusing on one class, and overall, to have a better academic experience, Beets said.

“Students were able to go out and do field-based experiences that would supplement their understanding of their topic,” she said.

As faculty and staff looked at research from other colleges, they noticed that
a few of the schools ran all their classes in the form of short immersive blocks.

For certain programs offered at SNC, it seemed to prove effective. In the Outdoor Adventure Leadership program, for example, when students take that class during a traditional semester,
the weekend trips often conflict with their other classes, usually a science lab. The two-week block gave students the opportunity to spend all their time focused on that one subject without having to miss other classes, while providing enough time to go out into the field and test those skills.

“I absolutely loved the two-week class,” Skaggs said. “I was a leader for the new orientation program, High Camp, and it was the best two-week ‘class’ I’ve ever taken.”

The short block also allowed for collaboration that might not have been possible without the new layout. In Chris Lanier’s drone class he was able to take his students out into the field towards the end of the block and collaborate with the SNO orientation for freshman. His drone students were able to video their final project, which was a boat regatta in Lake Tahoe, providing the drone students with footage for their edits, and the orientation students neat footage for the future.

With the shorter semester, midterms and finals seem to come more quickly than they did in the past. This left students with mixed emotions, like any change would. But it didn’t prove to be a huge deal.

“I’m not actually expecting the results to change much from the past years,” Beets said. “Whenever midterms come some people aren’t ready just because that’s the nature of it.”

Looking back on the data from past years, it showed that during longer semesters – like 15, 16, or 17 weeks – there was a tremendous slump in the last few weeks of the term just because students were burned out. Beets took this into account when implementing the new academic calendar.

“The 12-week period is definitely intense, but it’s also the amount of time that really engages students and holds their attention,” Beets said. “So far it’s working out so we’re just excited to see how it is towards the end of the school year.”