The college hour may seem like a foreign thought at Pierce, but Los Angeles Valley College currently has a time slot that allows for campus activities and club events.
With the implementation of a semblance of the college hour starting in the fall, Pierce may be heading in that direction.
Vice President of Administrative Services Sheri Berger said that three-hour classes will not begin during the 2:30 p.m. block, but four, five and six hour classes can still take place.
“I suppose for fall we will have a quasi, unofficial college hour because there aren’t as many classes scheduled at that time frame,” Berger said.
A champion of the college hour, Vice President of Student Services Earic Dixon-Peters brought the idea to Pierce a few years ago after seeing it successfully implemented at other colleges.
College hour is a block in the day when little to no classes are scheduled. This allows students and faculty to attend club meetings and office hours.
“The typical intent and purpose of it is to provide an opportunity where the campus community can come together to do a few things: to learn and engage and explore together different topics, ideas through activities and workshops,” Dixon-Peters said. “It also gives faculty a chance to engage with students beyond the classroom at a particular hour at a particular time to have robust learning opportunities.”
Berger said that when she came to Pierce College in September 2014, there was a conversation to implement a college hour, but administration decided not change the scheduled class times.
It wasn’t until January this year that they again began talking about the possibility of an hour block.
Berger said she became aware of some issues that needed to be solved within those scheduling blocks, which were unrelated to the college hour. She presented the conflict to the department chairs’ taskforce, and proposed a solution that would remove three-hour classes from the 2:30 p.m. block, effectively giving more students and teachers free time.
“Not everything always fits nicely into this grid,” Berger said. “The task force decided to see if they could incorporate a college hour because they were going to be relooking at the grid anyway.”
Different approaches to the hour are being considered by faculty and administration to avoid a schedule block with conflicts.
Professor of psychology and statistics Jennifer Moses said a schedule was initiated by administration, and the department chairs created a task force to respond to the suggestions.
“Scheduling is a very complicated thing. Because there are different departments that have different class lengths, you want to create blocks of time so that classes don’t overlap,” Moses said. “If there’s even a minute of overlap between two classes, students can’t take those two classes.”
Moses said administration’s schedule suggestions are that no classes start before 8 a.m., and none end after 10 p.m., in addition to having a possible college hour slot between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m.
“We felt that the schedule created was too constrained by the objectives of the administration. It would be beneficial to have a college hour at a time when students are on campus,” Moses said.
Moses said that during a college hour, faculty and students can meet without scheduling conflicts.
“It would be an optimal time for instructors to have their office hours because they know all their students can attend,” Moses said. “Clubs and committees can attend meetings because they know there are no scheduling conflicts. It allows us to create campus-wide events.”
Dixon-Peters said this block would increase student engagement on campus, which correlates to student achievement.
“Our success rates are low and our completion rates are low, so we really want to do something to engage differently,” Dixon-Peters said. “Ask our students, ‘What can we do differently that will help our students be connected and be successful and complete their educational goals?’”
Berger said that a college hour could provide more opportunities for community engagement on campus.
“It would afford us to schedule a meeting time so that more faculty and staff can participate. It would afford students to have student activities,” Berger said. “More students can attend those events because they are less likely to be in class.”
However, she isn’t sure that everyone agrees with scheduling a college hour block.
“I know there are some faculty, staff and students would very much like to have a college hour, and then you have people on the other side of the issue as well,” Berger said. “I don’t know where everyone is, but I’m trying to remain neutral and be open to whatever comes up.”
Berger acknowledged that the quasi college hour next semester might be during a time when less students are on campus.
“It might be a little late. Students may not want to stay for an event at 2:30 p.m., but without putting the whole schedule into chaos, this was probably be the least disruptive to that process,” Berger said.