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Calvary is implementing a new course structure to meet higher education’s demands.

As culture and society shift, the world of higher education shifts with it. Beginning this semester, Calvary implements a newly designed course schedule, matching modern changes in education trends. Instead of the traditional class structure of three weekly meetings, courses will meet once a week for a three-hour block of time.

Universities nationwide use this method, called block courses. Calvary University’s Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Teddy Bitner, pointed out that market research has revealed new demands in higher education. Students look for reduced time, reduced cost, and flexibility in their academic programs. Implementing block courses enables Calvary to meet these needs across several planes.

Concentrated class time helps students focus more on a topic and increases information retention. It also simplifies student schedules, giving them more flexibility for homework and work. One of the greatest benefits for working students is the ability to take classes in blocks concentrated to fewer days of the week, freeing up more full days for on- or off-campus jobs. Dr. Bitner expects that, based on the transition, “We will be more competitive and more able to meet the market demands.”

Addressing concerns about fewer contacts hours, Bitner pointed out that, “We’ve been doing this since 1995 with our intensives.” The block course format has been tested and proved effectual on Calvary’s campuses through these intensive courses. Far from reducing student learning, Bitner said, “The studies I looked at indicated that the retention levels in block classes and eight-week courses are higher than for regular classes because time is shorter and [students] are forced to concentrate harder.”

The new block courses integrate into a faculty-wide shift Bitner described as, “moving away from delivering content to achieving outcomes.” Block courses accommodate using innovative progress assessments to better track student growth, as well as looking for more interactive class structure. Some faculty are considering implementing a flipped course structure, where lectures are recorded ahead of time and in-class time is spent on more interactive and hands-on activities. Overall, the focus is on creating the most effective environment for student learning. Bitner emphasized, “We’re looking at what competencies are these students demonstrating at the end of the courses.”

Bitner anticipates the greater flexibility will bring “innovation among faculty and students as regards to how we retain information and what is really important to know at a university level.” He sees block courses as a medium for prioritizing and refining goals campus wide. “It forces us to focus on what is important,” and in doing so, challenge students to higher levels of critical thinking, information retention, and overall academic achievement.

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