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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University July 10, 2006 | Vol. 35 No. 39
Schedule Changes for A&S and WSE

Schools adopt class format more in line with national standard

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

A long-standing Johns Hopkins idiosyncrasy is now set for retirement.

The deans of the two Homewood schools recently announced their decision to adopt a long-debated change to the undergraduate course schedule that will spread out classes more evenly throughout the week and put Johns Hopkins in line with almost all peer universities.

Beginning in spring semester 2008, the majority of courses offered at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Whiting School of Engineering will be held in either a Monday/Wednesday/Friday or Tuesday/Thursday format. The morning M/W/F classes will be held for one hour, while the afternoon class blocks on these days will, with exceptions, meet for an hour and a half. The Tu/Th classes will all meet for an hour and a half.

Currently, most Krieger and Whiting school courses are held either Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday or Thursday/Friday. This "compressed" schedule allowed students and faculty to either front-load or back-load their week and in effect give themselves consecutive days off from classroom activities.

Adam Falk, dean of the Krieger School, said that there has been a growing sentiment throughout the school that the current course schedule hurt the university's social dynamic by creating a pattern of "binge" learning. In addition, the existing schedule has made it increasingly harder, Falk said, for students to avoid class conflicts when putting together a schedule and for departments to find available classroom space, as the compressed format bunched a large number of classes into very few time slots.

Proponents of the current schedule, however, like its inherent flexibility and how they can organize their week in blocks and use the consecutive days without classes to conduct research, attend a conference, perform volunteer work or engage in some other activity.

"The idea of change has always been contentious, and there is not even now unanimity that this is the best course of action," Falk said. "However, after a thorough two-year process, we found that more faculty have endorsed this change and prefer not to teach on a compressed schedule. And it was the overwhelming view of Student Life staff that this compression of the academic schedule is not good for the social dynamic of the student body."

Falk said that the change would use more of the week for classes and be consistent with schedules at other university divisions and colleges nationwide.

A key benefit of the change, he said, would be the facilitation of cross-divisional registration and interdivisional collaboration in program development. Currently, the ability of Homewood students to take classes at the School of Public Health and the Peabody Institute-and for Peabody students to take courses at Homewood-is constrained by the incompatibility of the divisions' class schedules.

The new schedule will also offer improved classroom utilization.

"The schedule we are on now has created a very inefficient use of classroom space," Falk said. "And when renovations begin on Gilman Hall, we will lose even more classrooms. We do expect that, with this adopted change, more of the week will be used than is the case now, and that in and of itself will alleviate many of the problems we currently face."

Nick Jones, dean of the Whiting School, said that the new format also makes sense from a pedagogical standpoint.

"Our students will have a little more time to absorb material from one class to the next, which I am optimistic will promote better preparation and participation in classroom activities," Jones said. "In other words, students will be less likely to have that drinking-from-a-fire-hydrant feeling."

Jones added that by avoiding the four-day weekend opportunity that currently exists, students will be around campus more and have more time to participate in extracurricular activities.

The Commission on Undergraduate Education originally proposed the move to a more standard course schedule format and made it a recommendation in its final report, released in May 2003.

Two years ago, a faculty committee was formed and charged with looking into the design of a new weekly course schedule based upon the CUE report recommendation. The proposal that was ultimately adopted was based upon the work of that committee.

Falk said that since last fall the Dean's Office has been involved in extensive consultation with faculty, students and staff in regard to the proposed schedule change.

"This proposal has literally been bounced around to department chairs, faculty, the [Homewood Schools] Academic Council and student groups," he said. "This was an issue that asked people to step outside their own particular relationship to the work that goes on here and look at the larger school and all the constituencies. All this required a lot of conversation and took a significant amount of time to come to maturity."

Falk said that the new schedule would feature some flexibility. For example, the three-day-per-week courses that meet in the afternoons may be scheduled, at the instructor's discretion, twice per week for 75 minutes or three times per week for 50 minutes. In addition, the revised schedule will allow for classes to meet one day, four days or five days per week, as is currently done.

For more information or to download a copy of the new schedule, go to


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