Block Scheduling Revision Proposal

The Provost has released the reports of a committee set up to redo the way Block Scheduling works. The proposed scheme is much simpler – M/W/F for 1-hour classes, and M/W or T/Th for 1.5 hour classes. You can read the report here.



9 thoughts on “Block Scheduling Revision Proposal”

  1. Would these changes they are discussing be enacted for the fall schedule? Because its hard to imagine anything that could be worse then the schedule they already have in place for the fall…

  2. I wrote an extensive response to the committee, which I’ll paste below to propel discussion.

    BSC members,
    I read through the report and here are some thoughts on your (collective) work. Please feel free to share these comments with the rest of the committee should you have occasion to meet again and incorporate outside perspectives. What I’ve provided below is a little bit of analysis but also a little bit of anecdotal evidence suggesting other issues that may arise. I hope you consider what I’ve done here and pass along useful portions to relevant people.
    Gideon Klionsky ’11

    We recommend that all classes begin on the hour or half hour and end 10 minutes before the hour or half hour (e.g., 9:00 a.m. to 9:50 a.m.; 10:30 a.m. to 11:50 a.m.).
    Yes, this is a great idea that I’ve included in every scheduling and timing survey the University has sent out. I agree completely and fail to understand why we don’t already have class from 10-10:50. In conversations with friends of mine, though, most answer back that “the reason we start 10 past the hour is that students will come late, and if classes are scheduled to begin at the hour, people will be ten minutes late anyway”. In other words, they think that students have a mental notion of a “10 o’clock class” to which they end up arriving 10 minutes late in time for the actual starting time of 10:10. On the other hand, I think students think they have a “10:10” class for which they often arrive 3-4 minutes early. So we may need to do some mental-conception work to get this change to be accepted and not blown over–i.e.: so that people get to a 10:00 class at 9:55 and not 10:05.

    As the host of two WBRS shows and the newly-elected General Manager of the station, I worry about what will happen to DJs who are forced to miss the first 10 minutes of their airtime because their classes got out at the same time they were supposed to begin. The same hold for those who work at Lemberg, the Stanley school, Dining services, etc. in the Real World, where blocks begin and end on the top and bottom of the hour.

    We recommend that three-day-a-week courses (50 minutes per session) meet on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (MWF)
    I didn’t really see any reason to do this, because it seemed like have two-day-a-week blocks on Tu and Fri made sense given that those blocks ended at 4:30 on Friday, which is later than I would take a class but is still acceptable for some people. However, what convinced me on the MWF switch is the comment about other schools in the region. I have a student in my Syntax class from Babson this semester, and besides for spring breaks being differently-timed, it’s difficult for him to create a schedule based around our current MWTh scheduling. Though I haven’t looked into taking classes at other schools in the Consortium, I imagine that for others who have, this is a very sensible switch to make.

    Increased utilization of 8:00 a.m. classes
    Not such a fan, and I’d bet that a lot of professors–and students, obviously–aren’t either. It seems that more would have to go into making this change, like ensuring that Einstein’s, Usdan, and Sherman would open before these classes begin. My schedule for next semester runs from 10am – 2pm on MWTh. If I had those same four hour-long classes from 8-noon without the opportunity to eat breakfast on my way up to class I would not be a very happy student. Furthermore, I think that using 9 am as a block for required classes (intro psych, anth, etc.) or languages classes is acceptable, but 8 am is really too early except for a) makeups b) 4th hours of language classes, and c) very small higher level classes that get slotted with the agreement of the 3-6 students in them

    Accessibility Issues
    Thank you for looking into this! I had considered writing an op/ed for the Justice when the Bikes program began several weeks ago about the accessability issues on campus. I hadn’t realized just how bad it was in terms of classrooms, but it’s clear that this campus wasn’t made for physically handicapped students or faculty at all. From the new Admissions lot with just one curb cut to the paths between the science center and the Castle to the 6-10 rooms for freshman in Shapiro in that extended wing, there really are no good facilities. It may be too late to ensure access in the Shapiro Science center and that new Hum building, but to the extent possible, we should make it happen. But that’s not under the concern of this committee.

    Over- and Under-utilization
    I had organic chem in Gzang 123 freshman year and didn’t care that half the seats were empty. Psych 34 (social psych) this semester is also 150 but is squeezed into Golding Auditorium, forcing latecoming students to sit in the aisles (bad for face-to-face learning and also a fire hazard) or the back of the room (hard to hear the professor). I see that the capacity is 159, but subtract a few for TAs and visitors and then a few more seats per row because of winter coats and backpacks, and you quickly get into problem territory. As far as I know, if students knew where to compain about things like this, they would have already. Fortunately I’m coming from Lown the hour before so I regularly get a good seat, but I know the frustration of the students who are walking up from the south end up campus. Also, the auditorium has no outlets on the walls, unlike G-zang 123 and other large spaces on campus. While outlet placement (SCC atrium and library and 2nd floor alcove, Sherman and Usdan dining halls, etc.) is also a separate issue unrelated to the charge of this committee, it should be a factor worth considering when it comes to scheduling classes.

    Schwartz Auditorium
    What a joke.

    Coordination among Academic Units in Scheduling Required Courses
    This is a very interesting question that every student will come across at least once in their time as a student. For me, that time was during this past course selection. The single offering of Yiddish 10 coincides with the second sections of both Arabic 30 and Econ 2a, as well as the most popular course at the school, D.H. Fischer’s class on WWII. Furthermore, the hour before sees the other sections of Arabic 30 and Econ 2a interfering with a course of interest to Yiddishists or Arabists, Comparative Semitic Languages, which I’ll be taking as a Ling elective. Some of these conflicts are unavoidable–both 12-1 and 1-2 are high-demand slots–but there’s no reason for this little coordination between the departments.

  3. I didn’t see that they were getting rid of that. Seems like a bad plan to me.

    Avi – This new schedule actually works better I think for orthodox Jews. Right now there quite a few T-F classes that run 3:00 – 4:30, which during winter can cut things very close. If they moved to a M,W,F schedule, they’d probably only have 1 hour class blocks scheduled until 2 on Friday, sort of like our current Thursdays where almost all classes are over by 2 PM.

  4. I’m kind of sad that they are getting rid of “Brandeis time” …I enjoy being able to leave my room at 9 for my 9am class.

  5. I like it, in theory. It sounds like they’re trying to get rid of overlapping class times, which is nice. I don’t know how I feel about losing TF classes, though; I like having a full half a week to do the reading for my reading-intensive classes instead of two nights to do it.

  6. They are going to increase the load of M/W and T/TH while decreasing the 3-day a week course loads; one could easily take two classes M/W and two classes T/Th for a balanced and Friday-free school week.

  7. The problem is that under the current system Sabbath observing Jews are able to schedule their classes so that they have no class on Friday. This way they are able to travel before the sabbath if they are going away for a weekend. These changes would make it much more difficult for this to occur. Additionally. I kind of like the three day weekend system that is currently in place.

  8. Not having tuesday/thursday classes would be awesome. Every other day would be a day off.

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