Benefits for the Student
Benefits for the Student
- Humane Pace of Learning
- Deeper Learning
- Improved Teaching
- Increased Depth of Learning
- Increased Ability for Learn-By-Doing
- Better Identification of Students with Special Needs
- Better Mentoring for Students
- Later Add/Drop Dates
- Student Finances
- Community College Transfers
- Degree Progress
- Increased summer opportunities
- Study Abroad
- Co-curricular Activities
- Student Athletes
- Lower Process Losses
Humane Pace of Learning
Semesters offer a more humane pace of learning for students. Semesters allow students more time to absorb and understand difficult material, as well as a better chance to recover from illness or adversity without having to drop courses and fall behind in their degree completion.
Semesters make possible a richer and more reflective student learning experience. There is less attention given to exams and greater chances of student retention of what they are taught. A 15 week semester allows more time for reflection and review of material, and a greater chance for students to engage in the material in a deeper and more meaningful way. At town hall meetings, students stated that they would find it difficult to remember what they learned after 15 weeks of instruction and that they find it easier to complete projects with very short deadlines. The majority of this committee finds it difficult to believe that CPP students are of a lesser caliber than other CSU students. We believe they are actually able to retain knowledge for 15 weeks and are able and willing to complete larger, more complex projects. Such skills (retention of knowledge and ability to work on longer term projects) will serve them well in the real world.
Semesters allow faculty to shift pedagogy mid-semester if their teaching is not working, if students are not engaged, or if student feedback indicates such a need. Students mentioned repeatedly at Town Hall Meetings that under the current system, they are forced to spend less time in boring, poorly taught classes that seem to go very slowly and just drag on and on. However, the student experience of semesters (when there is experience) seems to derive from their community college education, so the comparison is invalid – there is no reason to believe long-boring classes would be the case at Cal Poly Pomona and there are better remedies for “boring, poorly taught classes” than to just escape them faster.
Increased Depth of Learning
Students have argued that conversion to semesters would result in them taking fewer courses overall. However, the breadth of the curriculum cannot be measured simply by the number of courses students take (a curriculum in which students take 50 courses is not necessarily twice as broad as one with 25 courses, for example). The crucial consideration is the topics, ideas, theories, content, etc. that students are exposed to, and there's no reason to suppose that this exposure is narrower on a semester calendar than on a quarter system. Higher levels of learning such as integration and application are possible in a semester system, not just content delivery. Calendar conversion will require curricular re-organization, not curricular reduction. In addition, the reorganization can be minimized if the large number of existing 4 unit quarter courses are converted directly to 3 unit semester courses.
Increased Ability for Learn-By-Doing
The short time for classes under the quarter system undermines Cal Poly Pomona’s learn-by-doing philosophy. In many cases 10 weeks is insufficient to engage in productive partnerships with communities, and real-work opportunities outside the institution are limited in a 10 week quarter. Actually planning and implementing applied, constructed and community-based projects, as well as creating working relationships with community partners, would be easier in a longer semester system.
Better Identification of Students with Special Needs
Longer contact with students in a semester system makes it easier for faculty to identify students who need learning help of many kinds. Students who require remedial learning opportunities, students with learning disabilities, and students with special needs including veterans are easier to identify and serve in a semester system. The fast paced quarter system creates greater biases against special needs students.
Better Mentoring for Students
Because students’ initial exposure to particular faculty members is longer on a semester calendar, there is a greater likelihood for informal mentoring or advising relationships to arise. Such relationships are likely to contribute to better student retention and engagement.
Later Add/Drop Dates
The later add/drop dates offered in a semester system allow students to better acclimate to the material and to choose courses that better suit their program or interests. Students can ‘course-shop’ for a week to better understand their interests and their ‘fit’ with faculty in a semester system.
In a semester system, student financial aid matches federal and state funding timelines more closely and aligns with other university systems. A two semester system results in fewer schedule changes for students, thus easing their ability to work or intern outside of school and co-ordinate school and their jobs.
Community College Transfers
A semester calendar will ease the transition for students who transfer from our semester-based feeder community and junior colleges, as well as maximizing the likelihood that all transferred units satisfy Cal Poly degree requirements.
Students in a semester system have greater ability to adapt to difficult circumstances without becoming forced ‘off-schedule’ for their degree. It has been argued that students learn more on a quarter system and make faster progress toward their degree. However, no evidence supports these claims. Students at CSU quarter campuses do not graduate faster or with greater frequency than at CSU semester campuses. (See calstate.edu for comparative data about graduation times and rates.)
Increased summer opportunities
On our current quarter system, students get a late start on the summer job market and are shut out of worthwhile opportunities, such as summer internships, that begin in late May or early June. While it has been argued that they can work longer into the fall, in fact employers prefer students who can start earlier rather than end later. A semester-based calendar will make students more competitive for these opportunities.
Semesters create improved opportunities for students to participate in study-abroad activities. Most universities worldwide follow some version of a semester system. While the CPP International Center has managed to find ways to deal with the calendar difference, it is often a problem. Students often go abroad for the fall quarter, which is more or less equivalent to the first semester in most institutions. However, if they wish to go in January, they use up two quarters for one semester abroad, and they cannot attend only for the spring quarter since institutions overseas are halfway through the second semester. Conversion to a semester system would be beneficial for expansion of study abroad opportunities beyond the fall semester Cal Poly Pomona students are currently limited to.
A semester calendar would provide students more time for event planning and would allow them to spread out their activities throughout the semester, which in turn would provide more opportunities for students to participate in co-curricular activities. Off-campus activities such as conferences, student leadership conferences, semester-at-sea, internships, mock trials and attending CPP athletic events are normally scheduled based on a semester calendar. Converting to a semester calendar would allow more Cal Poly Pomona students to participate in such activities.
For our student athletes, a semester system would make their academic schedules align better with the semester-driven schedule of athletic competitions. They would be able to begin their practices in August, a month earlier than they currently do. (The NCAA does not allow athletes to begin practice until classes have actually begun.) Also, they would not have to negotiate their final examinations schedule as they do in the quarter calendar where finals week coincides with the NCAA finals.
Lower Process Losses
A semester system allows a decrease in process losses for students. They would have only two, rather than three, loss periods of ‘ramp-up’ in first week, wind-down in the final week of classes, line-ups for financial aid, registrar, parking passes, etc. This creates a greater efficiency for students, and one less period of time lost to administrative activities.