Professors Speak Out Against 2020 8-week Push
By: Jade Tyra, Staff Writer
While Oklahoma City Community College is pushing full force to transform the college semester system to eight-week terms in 2020, some faculty members are have “serious concerns” about the effect on students and about how little attention they said the college paid to input from the faculty before it decided to make the change.
OCCC is preparing to switch to eight-week terms for almost all classes in fall 2020.
This is an educational approach that has been used in some two-year colleges in Texas and New Mexico, to different degrees of success.
Angela Cotner, professor of English and Faculty Association Chair, is responsible for hearing the concerns from faculty and anonymously sharing them with administration.
“When the faculty first learned of this change, the majority of the faculty had serious concerns and were not in favor of the change,” Cotner said.
She said the faculty she has spoken to feel like they were left out of the initial decision-making processes regarding the switch and the college asked for input only after it had made up its mind.
“The administration had listening sessions for faculty, but many believe the decision was made before those sessions ever occurred,” Cotner said.
Other faculty said the switch to eight-week classes will impair students’ ability to learn subject matter that takes longer than eight-weeks to absorb.
Some courses that will be taught only in eight-weeks next fall and which students claim to need more time are in the sciences, foreign languages, arts, and mathematics.
However, many of these subjects will be taught only in eight-week blocks in 2020.
The college stated through email and text messaging last week that the majority of courses will be taught as eight-weeks, include courses in nearly every program.
Faculty warn the change may not be positive and net the results the college expects.
The switch “does not provide for the required time of reflection” said an OCCC mathematics professor who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being offered a contract to teach at the college next year.
“Experience has shown that students do not have enough time to absorb the material before they are required to use it” when they take the courses in eight-weeks, the professor said.
The professor said the college is using models from outstate schools that are very different than OCCC as the schools that have gone to mostly eight-weeks teach technical career programs that OCCC doesn’t offer.
For example, one school in Texas that the college is modeling its switch to eight-weeks after, Odessa College, appears to focus on technical degrees such as precision manufacturing technology, radiologic technology, substance abuse counseling, surgical technology, and welding among others.
These degrees are ones students finish in two years and then go to work, rather than transferring to a four-year school.
The majority of students at OCCC, though, take general education classes and major courses in programs so they can transfer to four-year colleges and universities.
The Texas college also does not require that courses that are mostly project based or language studies to be taken in eight weeks.
In fact, in many academic programs there, the major courses are offered only in 16 weeks.
Despite the concerns, the eight-week switch is supported by OCCC administration.
“Other institutions that have made this switch have increased retention at higher rates,” Vice President for Academic Affairs Greg Gardner said in promotional materials on the OCCC website.
“Students enrolled in 8-week courses have higher rates of continuing their course of study and completing their degrees,”
Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Kim Jameson also supports the change.
“The changes we are implementing will provide a more direct pathway for students to see their educational goals achieved,” she said on the http://occc.edu/8weeks/ webpage.
If students have questions or concerns regarding the switch, they can email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. The answers will be published on the OCCC website November 13.
If students are unhappy with the switch, instead of immediately transferring to new schools, they should “stay and fight,” Professor of Psychology Yuthika Kim said.
Kim said that if students have a problem with the change or don’t like the school’s plans, they “need to voice their concerns and rally.”