On Jan. 29, students were given a day off in preparation of a snow day on the Hattiesburg campus. With no snow to be seen and a day of school lost, the day left teachers and students to consider the impact of missing a school day in the newly-instituted short semester.
This school year marked the beginning of a shortened semester period at Southern Miss. The change shrank the size of both fall and spring semesters from 17 to 15 weeks and lengthened class periods by 10 to 30 minutes. The change allowed students longer breaks while also giving teachers more time to connect with students during each class period. However, some students and teachers have expressed dissatisfaction with the new schedule.
“I think the new schedule is hard on everybody, student and teachers alike,” Dan Capper, Ph.D., religion professor at Southern Miss, said. “I teach a class on a Tuesday night, and because of the snow day, I lost that week. This isn’t new. Snow days have happened in the past, but now since the classes need to cover more ground, you lose even more when classes are canceled.”
“Adding time to the classes doesn’t remedy this issue either, because people space out. People just can’t pay attention. Almost three hours in the evening is a lot to ask of someone, and now we’ve added another 30 minutes,” Capper said.
Jameela Lares, an English professor showed both support and dissatisfaction toward the change, but towards other issues.
“One day is a lot of time to miss now, but there’s a lot of benefits and drawbacks to the new semester system,” Lares said. “I try to front-load the semester in my classes to avoid my students from getting tired out, so the shortening of the semester hasn’t affected me that much. We try to look at everything in classes, but no matter what, you can’t. I don’t feel frustrated in my ability to teach all my material, but I do feel frustrated in my ability to attend meetings. It’s become really difficult to have meetings during the week without scheduling it for Friday, and it always falls on Friday now.”
“We still have the same number of contact hours. In fact, whenever I came here and saw that we had longer semesters, I didn’t know what I’d do with all that time, but I also think that it’s too early to know what all of these benefits and drawbacks are,” Lares said.
Students’ main concern stems from questioning their ability to adequately complete their work in the amount of time given and to digest the larger amount of information given each period.
“As a film major, the shorter semester has limited my ability to film my projects because we still have the same workload in a shorter amount of time,” Emily Brown, senior film major said. “Most of my work for school is outside of class, so now I just have less time to do my work. I take night classes on the coast as well, but I live in Hattiesburg. I was taking over three hours of French until 9:45 at night, which when studying a foreign language is just too much.”
“That being said, I like getting out of school earlier. The workload is more strenuous and compacted, but it feels nice to get done faster,” Brown said. “I don’t know what the long term effects of it will be, but I’m glad that my last year gets to be shorter. There are definite benefits to it, but change is hard no matter what. I’m mostly concerned about how the schedule will allow teachers to teach effectively, especially those in classes that are more project-oriented. The year isn’t over yet, though. We just need to see how it goes.”
photo courtesy Southern Miss Twitter