FYE Class Schedule

On March 3, 2005, Emily Dexter Page asked list members for their opinions on whether FYE classes should meet once or twice a week, given the number of topics needed to cover and the amount of time students need to build relationships. This question sparked a lively conversation; most people were in favor of the twice a week model and a few responded that they used the once a week model and were not satisfied with it. A few people suggested front loading the course, having it meet twice a week for the first 6-8 weeks of the semester. One subscriber promoted the once a week model, saying she has her students complete four 4-week group projects that require out of class collaboration. Finally, Brad Cox from the National Resource Center supplied statistical findings on the issue and suggested web-based resources for those desiring additional information.

Emily Dexter Page (read FYE-post or send email)
Sarah Bedingfield (read FYE-post or send email) sbedingfield@NHCTC.EDU
Ginny Curley (read FYE-post or send email)
Karla Sanders (read FYE-post or send email)
Allison Bly (read FYE-post or send email) ably@OHLONE.EDU
Marilyn Jones (read FYE-post or send email) mjones@JCCC.NET
Patrick Smith (ready FYE-post or send email) smithp21@MSU.EDU
Laurie Hazard (read FYE-post or send email)
Lora Pace (read FYE-post or send email) l.pace@MOREHEAD-ST.EDU
Maggi Miller (read FYE-post or send email) Maggi_Miller@HMCO.COM
Jerry Jewler (read FYE-post or send email) jjewler@SC.RR.COM
Sarah Bedingfield (read FYE-post 2)
Melody Kilcrease (read FYE-post or send email) kilcreas@MAIL.SDSU.EDU
Brad Cox (read FYE-post or send email)

March 3, 2005 11:20am
Original Message: class schedules?

FYE List Members,

Our campus is in the planning stages of establishing a First Year Seminar for our freshmen and we are debating the pros and cons of offering classes once or two times per week. My concern is that one class per week will make it difficult to really delve into the numerous issues we hope to address. Others feel that a first year seminar should not require students to commit to two classes per week. I am curious if any of you have had this discussion with your colleagues and could provide some input. Thanks!
Emily Dexter Page, MS
Director, Wellness Center
Rice University, MS-704
P.O. Box 1892
Houston, Texas 77251-1892
713-348-5111 fax

March 3, 2005 12:10pm
Re: class schedules?


We offer our First Year Seminar in all different formats, the two most popular being 2x per week for 8 weeks or 1x per week for 16 weeks. It is only a 1 credit course. I much prefer teaching the 16 weeks, even though we only meet for 50 minutes per week. Why? My involvement with them over an extended period of time seems to be more crucial than what I can accomplish in 50 minutes. We stay connected through email and they are working together on projects outside of class. My goal is to have them well
connected to each other, feeling integrated within the college, and understanding college expectations within the larger context of a full semester. I hope this helps.

Sarah Bedingfield
NH Community Technical College
Stratham, NH 03885

March 3, 2005 12:23pm
Re: class schedules?

A compromise approach that we use is 2 hours/week for 8 weeks. The value is that we can 'front-load' critical issues in the course so they have all information before mid-terms. The downside is that students are just getting their feet wet when the class ends. Good luck-

Ginny Curley
Coordinator of Integrated Learning
Nebraska Methodist College
Omaha, NE 68114

March 3, 2005 12:27pm
Re: class schedules?

We did a pilot a couple of years ago and offered a freshman seminar once a week instead of twice a week, which is what we normally do. We found that although the amount of contact was the same, the number of contacts per week made a big difference to the students. They liked the multiple times a week; it gave students a better sense of knowing each other and their instructors and it allows the instructors to address serious
issues as they come up rather than a week later. Based on our experience, which admittedly is primarily anecdotal, I would discourage the once a week meeting for freshmen.

Karla Sanders, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Academic Support and Achievement
Eastern Illinois University
600 Lincoln Ave.
Charleston, IL 61920

March 3, 2005 12:32pm
Re: class schedules?

I teach a similar type of course that only meets once per week. Not only is this not enough time to discuss certain topics, it also makes it difficult to really develop relationships with the students and for the students to develop relationships with other students in the class. One of the primary purposes of this class is to help the students connect with the college, and I feel the class fails in this area because it only meets fifty minutes each week.

Allison Bly

March 3, 2005 12:57pm
Re: class schedules?

Our Orientation class meets 2x/week for 50 min. each session. I think having that face time twice a week is critical to the students getting to know the instructor, their classmates, the peer leader, and of course having adequate time to process what their learning from the assignments, that include becoming familiar with campus resources.

Marilyn Jones

March 3, 2005 1:26pm
Re: class schedules?

What you may want to consider is initially offering the course to meet twice a week. At the end of the semester you could then survey the class and ask if they feel that the course should be modified in any way (i.e. meet once a week). I think a more important question that should be considered is if the "content" of the course worth it for the students. You can require students to meet as many times as you would like; however, if the material is not relevant, students will not think the class is worth their time and effort.

Also, how many credits will the seminar be worth and how will it be graded? Will it be pass-fail or will a grade be assigned? Will the class have a format that incorporates in-class activities, or will homework be assigned. From my (humble) experience, students seem to complain when they are assigned "busy" work when they feel that the class does not warrant it.

Personally I like the twice a week format because it may give students a stronger connection to the course (and their professors).

Patrick Smith

March 3, 2005 1:35pm
Re: class schedules?

On the other hand, if you do the model of twice a week for eight weeks, they don't have regular contact with you after mid-semester (of course depending on how you have things set up). We debated over this as well. We thought that we wanted to "stay with them" all semester. If you "let them go" after the eighth week, it's like you are letting them go after the honeymoon phase is ending when the reality of being a first year student hits: mid-term grades come back and academic pressure mounts because of procrastination; anxiety sets in because students feel "they should have adjusted by now;" roommate issues come to a head; culture shock is setting in for domestic and international students for different reasons. It's a tough one. We agonized over it and went with the once a week seminar in order to see the students through their entire first semester. My two cents!

Laurie Hazard
Bryant University

March 3, 2005 1:39pm
Re: class schedules?

At Morehead State University, we meet 2x per week for the 1st four weeks of classes then 1x per week until mid-November for a total of 16 class meetings. Our course is a 1 credit hour course. This allows us to front load the semester as well as take them through mid-terms and advance registration.

Lora Pane
Morehead State University

March 3, 2005 2:05pm
Re: class schedules?

Dear Fellow LISTERS,

I wish I had a nickel for every time the question concerning schedules and contact hours with regard to FYE-type courses comes up in the field of student success. And, as we can see by people's responses, the opinions and experiences range far and wide, so it would appear there is no right or wrong answer. However, it may be that we could achieve more by reframing the question and by applying what we know about pedagogy.

If we start at the end of the course and move our way back to the beginning, we can gain some perspective. What do we expect students to be able to do or to know by the end of the class?

If we are able to spend about 15 hours in contact with them, then we can expect to be able to impart some valuable information that may make the transition to college easier. Students can learn where to go to get their questions answered. They become familiar with the school's resources. They may even be able to gain some reflective time to consider why they are enrolled in college and where they hope to end up afterwards.

If we are able to spend as many as 30 hours, numerous studies and surveys tell us that the students may have enough time to not only capture some important information but also to practice changing their behaviors, especially their learning behaviors - another important piece of the transition to college.

If we have the luxury of more hours, well, we can expect greater satisfaction, deeper learning, and a positive impact on retention. Of course, no one ever has "enough time" to address all the issues we know will affect students. So, each school has to make difficult choices about what is most important for their students. One school may chose to focus both on orientation and on academic strategies; another may be more concerned with personal issues such as chemical abuse. It is unlikely we will ever develop a one-size-fits all course.

And as for the question of whether to spread the contact over the course of the term or to concentrate it in the first half, or even in the week before the term begins, we can go back to pedagogy. DISTRIBUTED learning works better than MASSED learning. Some "think time" for reflecting and practicing can be beneficial for many students. On the other hand if your administration offers you the opportunity to offer a new course but only if you schedule it in a condensed format, then it seems clear that SOME contact time is better than NONE.

Perhaps the best solution is to go with what makes the most sense and then to do some serious follow-up with evaluations of students, faculty and the program, to establish focus groups and ask people not involved with the program to run the sessions, and to check to see if your original purpose and objectives have been met. If the outcomes are positive, you have been successful!


Maggi Miller
Program Manager
Houghton Mifflin Company
College Survival and Faculty Programs
800-528-8323; 800-856-5727

March 3, 2005 3:20pm
Re: class schedules?

Students who meet only once a week will find it difficult to function as a group, i.e., not to feel alone. Twice a week is certainly the ideal. It's important in this course to work at team/group building so that students meet one another and know their fears and hopes are
similar. Those opposed have their heads in the sand.

Jerry Jewler

March 3, 2005 3:24pm
Re: class schedules?

I disagree that students who meet only 1x per week will find it difficult to function as a group. It all depends on how you structure the class. I have a 16 week course that meets once a week. I have 4, 4-week projects that are all group based. Every 4 weeks the group members change. My students know each other very well and are very relaxed with each other. At the beginning of each 4 week project, I introduce another team building activity to help the new group members to get to know each other better. It is working very well.

Sarah Bedingfield

March 3, 2005 6:00pm
Re: class schedules?

Dear Emily,
I attended a conference of California State University FYE program directors last year, and recall that a survey from Educational Benchmarking, Inc. Found that a plurality of courses meet twice a week, or give two units of credit (can be completed in a variety of
ways). We have a once a week, 50 minute session for the semester, and for all we want to do, it is too little time. We have developed a concurrent series of workshops (week 2-12), all of which our students can choose to attend, but must attend at least four, that
handles a lot of the campus resource orientation work formerly done in the seminar (replicated from Ohio State's great model). If your colleagues really resist the two session a week idea, you might consider an idea like this.

Melody Kilcrease
San Diego State University

March 4, 2005 12:03pm
Re: class schedules?

Emily, Melody, & others concerned about contact hours and credit hours in your first-year seminars:

The 2003 National Survey on First-Year Seminars found that, from responding institutions (n=552 for this question), 49.5% offered seminars with 1 credit-hour, 13.2% had 2 credits, and 31.2% had 3-credit-hour courses, while 13% offered seminars with four or more credits (note: schools could report more than one credit structure if
they had multiple FY seminars on their campus).

Ironically, while nearly 50% of respondents indicated that their seminars earned one credit, in a related question about contact hours (n=621) only 34.3% of respondents indicated that their seminar had one contact hour per week. 20.9% had 2 contact hours, and 36.1% had 3 contact hours, while 11.3% had 4 or more contact hours. These data
suggest that at some schools the seminar has more contact hours than credit hours. I'll let you all hypothesize about why this is the case.

Also note that both credit hours and contact hours varied (to a statistically significant level) by institutional selectivity and seminar type. Detailed statistics can be found in tables 7.51-7.53 & 7.56-7.58 of the Center's Monograph # 41. A description of the
monograph is available at

A free, general summary of findings is available at


Bradley E. Cox
Coordinator of Research and Public Information
National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in

University of South Carolina
1728 College St.
Columbia, SC 29208
(803) 777-6225