A Framework for Course Scheduling

by Ogbeide Imahe

Objectives and Principles

The aims of this framework are to build/sustain motivation for the course, help recollection of transmitted information, and skills mastery. It’s devices include defining/painting a vision for the course and tracking progress along with the students, encouraging the practice of daily diligence through exercises, periodic reviews, and some overlapping coverage of content.

The table below is a sample of a typical week of this framework; its inspiration is outlined shortly. TBD, as used in the table, means ‘to be decided.’ We cover operational details further down.

CourseWeeklyTable2

The above schedule is modelled after a 40-hour work week (eight hours a day); it takes a view that the student is in full-time employment. Hence, they are asked to regard their programme of studies as full-time work doing what is worth their while. Growing in capacity to deliver useful results in specific areas and the skills and knowledge they come out with are regarded as rewards for the work they do. Students are expected to have worked (at least) eight hours between 8 am and 8 pm every week day. All work is done term-time and the holidays are regarded as leave so no assessed work is given for the period.

There are consecutive daily engagements for each course. This makes the course intensive. However, this structure is such as to encourage and give the student practice in daily diligence (a useful attitude) at worthwhile work – fulfilling a mission. Students are made aware at the beginning of each programme of their responsibilities and obligations as this is tied to their achieving goals that may include knowledge acquisition, skills development, and good results. They are periodically reminded of this in the context of self-improvement, skill acquisition and mastery, and to promote personal responsibility. It emphasises diligence and maintaining a good attitude to work.

An intensive course by itself may only serve to shorten the time to completion, but we also want to have some certainty, albeit limited, that the student is following the course well enough, and that they’re more able to remember their learning. Their performance in the daily exercises provides for this. The training delivery, (which includes the daily exercises) is thus designed to include elements of repetition and regular revision.

The perhaps ideal number of courses to adequately support the goals in this structure is two. However, going with three courses can be done with a reduction is class engagement time. It becomes too many to handle four courses using this structure as it divides students’ attention among too many things. The student is also neither saturated nor bored with dealing with only one course; we consider multitasking helpful for student development. Having fewer courses, in general, is better for focus, concentration, and recollection. These are subjective views.

Operational Details

The eight course instructional engagements per week (Courses A and B) would amount to no more than 16 hours given a maximum two hours per session. Another ten hours (2.5 per day) is viewed as time for revision and doing exercises. Friday work is assigned 8 hours, and the remaining 6 hours is for additional study and going through course readings. Readings are thus made of such length as could be completed by the average student within the time budgeted (perhaps no more than 20 pages or so, depending on difficulty).

Time allocations may vary depending of the nature of the course and the overall duration planned. If coursework is given, then, time is taken away from that considered for readings. Coursework may replace readings. This framework prefers that students have their weekends free of assignments so it would rather encourage open book in-class coursework (individual or team-based) and/or same week submissions.

The part 1 activities are fixed; they are the ‘classroom’ engagement times. Suitable instructional activities (e.g. lectures, recitations, demonstrations, practicals etc.) are used to transmit information and learning to the students during these periods. Part 1 sessions may also be used for in-class tests. Tests and exams may be open or closed book.

Part 2 activities aren’t implemented rigidly, rather a deadline of 8pm is given per day for the associated revision exercises. Here, we expect students to engage the information recently transmitted (typically topics from the previous and current instructional engagements), and their readings. This system prefers to give homework that is due the day of issue to motivate daily revision. The exercises are to help students learn/master the course, support recollection, and are used to confirm that some revision has taken place. Studying the readings is at the student’s discretion; ‘Revise A/B’ in the table reflects the expectation that the students engage their assigned readings from the course packet/material daily. Course materials are provided at least a week before the relevant material is covered or needed.

At the beginning of every instructional activity is a review of the previous day’s work followed by advance organizers (for the day, week, or entire course as reasonable). Every instructional activity ends with a review that emphasizes the context of the day’s work and an advance organizer for the next engagement. This is important for giving the students the big picture and keeping their eye on the learning objectives and goals. There is some overlap of the previous and current day’s work in the exercises. This repetition has the sole aim of supporting longer-term recollection.

Daily exercises are revision multiple choice questions (MCQs), computer scored, and provides feedback to students and the course administration, quantitatively checking students’ learning. The lecturer responsible for the training delivery gets a report that may include information that would help focus reviews/revision classes. Remedial sessions may be scheduled periodically outside of the part 1 activities by assistants or the training facilitator (lecturer). Another option is to assign from the class a volunteer personal tutor to help the needy student at a free time. That is, we encourage students to help each other with grasping the concepts but never to do the assignments for each other.

As a control measure, and to help the student periodically consolidate his/her learning, in-class tests are given about every three weeks (Mondays) from the second/third week – alternating between the two courses. The last week of the course shall be taken up by in-class tests, revision sessions, case-studies, examples, walkthroughs, or practical/laboratory work. Examinations come the week after the last week of the course, or if time would be allocated, a reading week could be inserted before exams.

Fridays

This may be given the students as a free day to revise the weeks work, and perhaps in preparation for a test on Monday. It could be used as the official tutorial day, where students meet with assigned course tutors for small session tutoring, question and answer sessions etc. Other options include making it a day for presentations, seminars, workshops or laboratory/practice. The point here is that it can be used in any way to support the course and learning objectives.

One possibility, also, is that a third course may be run on Fridays. If this were the case, then we would suggest making it based on readings, essays, labs or tutorials, and/or that it be such a course as would naturally require relatively more personal time to formulate ideas. Another activity for Fridays (or for the end of the course) could be individual or group based integration projects – work that integrates the key ideas in the course or give practice in using/demonstrating concepts taught.

Other Configurations

Other configurations following the general structure are possible; such as doing ‘course A’ Monday to Thursday while ‘course B’ is Tuesday to Friday. Or rather than have Friday for the ‘free’ day, Wednesday, the middle of the week, may be used instead. While we feel that two main courses represent perhaps the best number for the student to deal with daily in this way, one or three courses can be run using the system. With three courses, the total time of classroom engagement would still not exceed four hours. A novel possibility is having one course in this format run concurrently with perhaps, two other courses in the ‘traditional’ formats.

Suitability

The system was designed with higher education in mind. However, its principles and style may be adapted to pre-university studies; it can certainly be used for home schooling. Given that the scheduling likely shortens a course duration, and depending on the structure of the instructional activities, it may not be suitable for courses that have a lot of readings (volume) or may need a lot of personal time to reflect on the material. It is perhaps more suited to technical courses and where daily ‘hands-on’ practice helps with achieving mastery.

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