Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on Sunday, December 4, 2011 at 4:14 PM PST
Contact Hours?? A blog about contact hours?? Why blog about contact hours, and what are they anyway?
Contact hours are the time faculty is supposed to spend working with students in a course. A contact hour is actually 50 minutes, not 60. Our typical three credit graduate course, for example, is supposed to have thirty contact hours. The typical five credit undergraduate class is supposed to have fifty contact hours.
It turns out that with some frequency some of our graduate courses are getting shorted contact hours. Every winter quarter it seems that some classes are meeting only nine times, meaning only 27 contact hours. That's a 10% shortfall for the course! In the eight week summer term, some of our graduate classes have closer to 26 contact hours.
I am not sure how long this problem has been there, but we finally decided to do something about it. Beginning with the Spring, 2012 quarter, we will start adding time to courses that would otherwise be shorted. For example, a ten week class that meets only nine times and would normally run from 6:00 to 8:40 PM will now meet each evening from 6:00 to 8:55 PM. The times will be on the schedule and students and faculty will know in advance and be able to plan accordingly.
I really don’t know why we let this situation go on for so long. Our graduate classes don’t have many contact hours to begin with, so missing them shortchanges students and makes it impossible for faculty to cover the material they planned to cover.
It is an example of getting used to something that we should have recognized as being incompatible with academic excellence. I think the lesson is, “Be Vigilant!” Big or small, there are lots of things out there that we can change for the better!