Diana Kugel: Seek once-a-week

Seventy-five minutes plus 75 minutes equals two and a half hours, whichever way you add it, right? Mathematically speaking, a class that meets for an hour and fifteen minutes twice a week is equivalent to a once-a-week, two-and-a-half-hour session, but the amount of academic output differs greatly.

As I was sitting down to study for midterms not long ago, I couldn’t help noticing that four of my classes had reached virtually the same chapter in their respective textbooks in the first six weeks of the semester. All of my classes were hovering somewhere around chapters four or five, save the blatant exception of my fifth class, which happens to meet only once a week.

In that class, we were on chapter 10.

While clearly not applicable to all academic fields, more departments should seriously consider the merits of once-a-week classes.

The thought of sitting still for over two hours may not get every student – or professor for that matter – jumping for joy, but the luxury of having such a solid chunk of time to learn a new concept should not be underestimated. In a regular class, between everyone getting settled and then packing up early to be the first to bolt out the door, we get just over an hour of real class time. While this is sometimes enough to get a good discussion going, more often than not the professor ends class with “hold that thought, we’ll pick up there next time.”

In a once-a-week class, it is perfectly feasible to get through a whole textbook chapter’s worth of content in a single session, with enough time for questions and back-and-forth discussion from the class. Since most of the time we don’t leave off in the middle of a topic, we don’t have to spend the first 20 minutes of each class reviewing. Also, having a whole week to get the reading done means slightly better odds that more than half the class will actually do it.

From a purely practical perspective, going to a class once weekly means you save yourself that 20-minute trek to and from E Street to 2020 K St., and makes it so much easier to schedule jobs and internships on your free days. Professors who live off campus can also benefit by reducing their commute. After all, time is money.

I’m not going to pretend that two and a half hours doesn’t seem long at times, but if we’re given a five- to 10-minute break at some point, the class is usually able to focus without a problem. As it is, many students don’t think twice about scheduling two or three classes back-to-back with only a 20-minute break between them.

Subject areas such as political science and psychology do a decent job of making once-weekly classes available, but these are almost exclusively higher-level courses. Introduction classes could easily benefit from the added depth and efficiency that comes with once-a-week classes.

At the same time, students should make sure to take advantage of these classes. This is especially true in courses that really interest them, since they are more likely to get a chance to debate the material more thoroughly and to get through most of the syllabus. It also helps avoid that reading crunch in the middle of the week, as you frantically skim through readings for your Tuesday-Thursday classes on Wednesday night. As registration rolls around next week, seriously consider taking one or more of these classes.

Of course, there are some subject areas such as foreign languages and mathematics where it is necessary to meet much more often for regular exposure to the material. If a Spanish 001 class meets only weekly, it will probably never get far past “hola.”

Even though once-a-week classes won’t work for every student, every professor or every subject area, they could be a priceless innovation as we explore ways to improve and maximize the classroom experience.

And after all, who doesn’t love a little variety in their weekly routine?

The writer, a senior majoring in psychology, is Hatchet contributing opinions editor.

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