STLCC introduces a new learning format with high hopes of success
By: LIVIE HALL
In the fall of 2015, STLCC-South County Education and University Center (SCEUC) will be implementing a new program called 7-one-7. The program divides a semester into two seven-week chunks with one week off in between.
Instead of taking four or five sixteen-week classes, those classes are remodeled to fit into a seven-week schedule. Students will only have to take two or three at a time. After the seven weeks are up, so is the class, followed by seven more weeks of different classes.
STLCC is not the first college to do this.
“Trident Technical College went from quarter hours to semester hours, and in the year they went from quarters to semesters, they saw their enrollment tank,” Fitzgerald said.
After seeing these results, Trident broke their semester in half – leaving them with a seven-week session, one week off and another seven-week session. It also allowed students to focus on courses more so than trying to balance four or five classes at a time. Within a few years, Fitzgerald said their enrollment skyrocketed.
“What they found was that students did better in their classes. They got better grades. Because they only had two or three courses at a time, it allowed them to really get into the courses,” Fitzgerald said.
By “improved grades,” students were getting As, Bs and Cs. There were less Ds, Fs and “incompletes” recorded. The withdrawal rate had gone down as well.
STLCC adopted this model from Trident Technical College in South Carolina after seeing their success.
Fitzgerald said STLCC has had a concern with their enrollment dropping and has been looking for creative ways to fix the problem. She said enrollment is more than simply recruiting students, it is also retaining them.
Meramec student Janeth Calderon said the program sounds great. While she does not attend any classes at SCEC, she said she would if they brought the program to Meramec’s campus and would feel more inclined to stay at STLCC.
“I feel like I would get stuff done faster,” Calderon said.
At the SCEUC, the same number of classes and sections will be offered as there were last fall. What they are focusing on is how successful the students are in taking those courses while they are there.
When administration made the decision to implement the new program, it was up to the department chairs to designate teachers to classes.
SCEUC and Meramec Communications Professor Denise Sperruzza is a faculty member that will be teaching with the 7-one-7 program in the fall. She said this structure is a new.
Planning the curriculum is different than the planning of a regular sixteen-week class because with a longer class you are covering more in that amount of time than if you took three 50-minute classes.
She said she is thinking about breaking her class into chunks: one chunk as a lecture, one an activity, etc. Basically, she will be using the flip method.
The flip method is where teachers post their lectures and lessons online for students at home and then they do their homework in the classroom.
“I think it’s an opportunity for faculty to do some fun and engaging things in the classroom that when you meet for 50 minutes at a time, you just can’t do,” Sperruzza said.
Fitzgerald said she believed the program would draw current and prospective students in as it gave them a new way to learn.
She said the beauty of this has been that STLCC has around nine academic areas that are onboard. She said they have the core academic support they need and a nice partnership between student and academic affairs.
“I have asked to refrain from calling it a ‘trial’ or a ‘pilot,’ because that sounds like you’re just taking a stab at it,” Fitzgerald said.
She said many colleges across the country offer classes in the 7-one-7 format. STLCC is committed to this program, and now it is a matter of committing the students.
“For some students, I think it’ll keep them engaged and they’ll actually learn better. I just think it’s going to be tricky to get the right students in that schedule,” Sperruzza said.
She said her concern is that the program is so accelerated and the students will have to have that much more discipline. It is unlike a regular semester where if a student is not doing well in a class by midterm, they have the rest of the semester to make it up.
She said if they are not really cut out for accelerated-type courses, they will not be successful.
“It works for students everywhere else,” Fitzgerald said. “So we think it’ll work for St. Louis Community College students as well.”