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Opening Arguments

Tri a little harder

Interesting move:

Purdue University will begin a shift to a year-round, trimester-based academic calendar this summer.

The move announced Wednesday by Purdue President France Cordova will break the academic year into three 13-week trimesters with a larger lineup of summer courses. Cordova said it will allow students to potentially complete a degree in three years.

I started college out at Indiana University on the semester system and finished at Ball State on the quarter system. I had some bad class experiences in both -- a few tedious classes for which a semester was way too long and a few tough or interesting classes for which a quarter was much too short -- but generally speaking I liked the faster pace and higher number of courses of quarters better.

At first glance, Purdue seems to be splitting the difference, but the system they're implementing actually looks a like like the quarter system. You can go to school for three stretches or add the summer session and get done faster. Under the quarter system you also only needed to go for three terms unless you want to go for all four and graduate quicker.

With the advances in tehnology -- the ability to teach and learn online, for example -- it seems like they should start being a lot more flexible. Teach each class exactly as long as the subject matter requires instead of trying to fit them all into a predetermined schedule.


William Larsen
Fri, 01/13/2012 - 2:21pm

I am not so sure this will work out a well as they might think. When I went to Purdue, I did take summer classes and it nocked a year off my graduation date. However, it gets tiring going to school all the time and a break does make for what I believe better retention.

The problem with retention is that the storage device (brain) is still the original revision; it processes and stores information pretty much the same way. If you try and submit too much information at one time, the brain shuts down and retains little of anything. German scientist a century ago studied retention and found that you can only absorb so much so fast; anything more is lost.

I believe a lot of the K-12 problems are due solely to rushing through material; primarily trying to get kids to read and know numbers in grade K. The material has not changed (science, math, literature, history), only the manner it is taught. Too little repetition leads to lack of retention and a soft foundation on which to build upon.

In many ways this is more like what the experiment at Paul Harding High School was about. It was a terrible failure that ruined a lot of educations.