College pulling back, will add more 16-weeks classes in fall

Despite the rush to transition OCCC classes into a nearly 100% 8-week course format, OCCC will be cutting back on that push and offering more 16-week classes for the upcoming Fall 2021 semester.

As it stands, OCCC classes are on a 95%-5% split–meaning that 95% of the classes offered are in an eight-week format, and 5% are 16-week classes. However, that will change for upcoming semesters.

According to Interim President Dr. Jeremy Thomas, for the Fall 2021 semester, 80% of classes will be offered as eight-week terms and 20% will be 16-week classes.

This pullback is partially due to requests from faculty and students.

It is also a result of  the desire to get more reliable data about how successful the 8-week courses have been, Thomas said.

“COVID and the shift online impacted our transition. While early data suggests that students performed better than Fall 2019, we wanted to take a step back and make sure we were not leaving anyone out,” Thomas said.

The college is expected to settle into offering only 20% of 16-week courses for several years, as OCCC attempts to collect more data about how the shorter courses affect student success.

Thomas specified that the college wants to analyze more student success data collected outside of the pandemic.

The 8-week push has not been popular with much of the faculty, who are the subject experts, as was seen when after the end of the first eight-week term last fall OCCC professors began to express negative views about how well their students were doing and the toll it was taking on them to teach in the quick format.

Near the end of the second 8-week term, many faculty members spoke against the 8-week shift again and shared their frustrations at an OCCC Faculty Association meeting, in which a member of OCCC’s Board of Regents was notably present.

During this meeting, professors expressed that they felt their concerns were not being heard by administration and felt hurt and exhausted by the change and workload.

Even though not every OCCC professor felt this way, many still said they believed that offering more 16-week classes would be beneficial to students in the long run.

The college made the shift to mostly 8-week courses in 2020 after administrators said the college must do more to increase retention and graduation rates.

According to an email from Thomas and Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs Kim Jameson, in some instances, retention and graduation rates have been declining across the country for schools who offered mostly 16-week courses.

“The goal behind the eight-week terms is to try and improve those rates,” Thomas stated.

“Institutions who have made this change have seen considerable improvements in student success rates. OCCC needs to improve our student success rate and we as an institution, owe it to our students.”

When the change was announced students were apprehensive.

Many students did not believe that offering only eight-week classes would allow enough time to thoroughly learn all necessary material.

Other students were welcoming.

“For me, doing eight-week classes wasn’t a big deal,” a former OCCC student said.

“I am used to doing fast paced classes; however, I can’t speak to everyone’s situation. I only take one class at a time so my workload isn’t too heavy, but that isn’t the case for everyone,” the student said.

“Other students take multiple classes at once and then may have to deal with things in their personal lives,” she said.