quarter vs. semester

Ross Koning Koning at ECSUC.CTSTATEU.EDU
Tue Jan 2 11:00:33 EST 1996

At  9:34 PM 12/29/95 -0400, Henry L. Griffith wrote:
>Please respond with your opinions and information on the pros and cons of the
>quarter or semester system in colleges.


I have only taught in a semester scheme, but I do
have some comments about shorter semesters as I do
teach in shorter summer and winter sessions...

First, I think the semester system in the US is
an academic standard and it is difficult for a
student to transfer out of the rarer quarter system
into a semester system as transfer credit officials
have a difficult time deciding upon equivalencies.
So for students I think the quarter system has one
important drawback.  It is a Betamax system in a
VHS world.

Second, I like the longer semesters for teaching
plant biology so that there is sufficient time for
students to grow plants up from seeds, carry out
experimental treatments, allow time for a response,
take measurements and other observations, and write
up a reasonable report.  While we do have such plants
as Rapid-Cycling Brassicas (Wisconsin Fast Plants),
I like to expose students to a range of species and
most of these are tough to compress into a semester...
let alone a quarter.  So, I guess the major disadvantage
for me would be the lack of enough "tachy-plants" to
do experimental work in quarters.

I think an advantage of quarters is likely that the
subjects move along faster and, perhaps, can sustain
student interest over the whole period.  I would hope,
though, that students would take fewer courses in such
a system.  In our shorter intersessions, we try to compress
a whole semester of information into the six, four, or
even three week period (with longer class times per week
of course).  Unless a student is taking sufficiently
fewer courses each such term, the information and work
load could be staggering.  In our intersessions we
advise students to take one or at most two courses for
this reason.

These are just some observations I would note, having
no experiences in a quarter system.


( )______________________________________________)
 \ Ross Koning                                  \
  \ Biology Department                           \
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