How a college is flexing its block schedule for fall 2020

'Our hope is for in-person instruction for all of fall 2020'

Flexibility is the name of the game for students who return to full-time classes on Centre College’s new block schedule in fall 2020.

Centre College, located in Kentucky, will divide its traditional 13-week, four-course academic term into two blocks of two courses that will run for six weeks and two days.

“While our hope is for in-person instruction for all of fall 2020, the CentreBlocks schedules will enable us to offer any combination of in-person and remote learning in response to the public health situation,” says Alex McAllister, associate dean of the college. “It allows us to be nimble and adaptive.”

The first block will begin on Aug. 26, five days earlier than previously planned, and end Oct. 13. There will be a week-long break before the second block begins on Oct. 21. The 90-minute courses will meet five days a week.

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Professors will be able to meet with their students more often as they will be teaching fewer students in each block, McAllister adds.

“From a student perspective, taking only two courses at a time means less mental shifting among subjects, which should reduce stress and help both first-year and current students more easily transition into a new academic year,” McAllister says.

Fall 2020: Online classes or in-person?

Centre expects to decide by mid-summer whether fall 2020 courses will be in-person or remote. The block schedule will allow the college to shift, in either direction, toward more in-person or toward more online classes.

“The clear intention of Centre College is to be open for the entire 2020-2021 academic year,” Centre President John Roush said in a statement. “Though it is understood that we will do so in ways, following broader guidelines and recommendations, that protect our students, faculty and staff, as well as the larger Danville and Boyle County community.”

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The block schedule idea came out of weekly discussions being held by deans in the Associated Colleges of the South (of which Centre College is a member) to share ideas for adapting to the COVID-crisis, says Ellen Goldey, Centre’s vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college.

The college is modeling the courses on its accelerated CentreTerms, which are three-week “block-style” courses held each January. The schedule also jibes with a small residential college’s approach to academics, alumni, athletics and student life, Goldey says.

“The primary driver of a decision to have in-person classes this fall is the ability to preserve the health and well-being of our people—students, staff and faculty,” Goldey says. “We’re thinking about how best to morph our standard practices to adapt to the new realities imposed by COVID, and we’re looking to national and state-level leaders for expertise and guidance to inform our decision-making process.”

UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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