A long-standing Johns Hopkins idiosyncrasy is now set
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
"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