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MC moving to 4-4 academic calendar

Barry McNamara
11/02/2011
Monmouth College recently announced a change to a 4-4 academic calendar, beginning with the 2012-13 academic year.

In a 4-4 format, students take four courses per semester, rather than the current five-course load. Each course is worth a single credit and, beginning next year, Monmouth will require that its new students take 32 credits to graduate. Students already enrolled under the 5-5 calendar will have their transcripts converted by college officials.

“The change from the current curriculum to the new 4-4 model will require a transition step for each student,” explained Faculty Senate member Mike Connell. “In all decisions, the goal will be to favor the student’s position and keep them on track to graduate at the same time as they would in the current system.”

“The group of college personnel who worked on the 4-4 has carried out its work with the goal of enhancing the academic experience for Monmouth students by opening up opportunities for increased academic engagement within the classroom and beyond,” said David Timmerman, dean of the faculty. “Monmouth aims to provide an excellent undergraduate education to thoughtful, intellectually curious and ambitious students, both those that come to campus well prepared for first-year college work and those whose backgrounds have left them unprepared, but not incapable, of such work. Improving our ability to reach this goal is the rationale for the alterations to our current curricular model.”

College officials believe that the shift to a 4-4 will enable the faculty to extend its successful, personalized, advising-intensive, one-on-one and small-group work to even more students.

“SOFIA (Summer Opportunities for Intellectual Activity) is an outstanding example of this innovative new work,” said Timmerman. “However, SOFIA is time-intensive, time-limited and is offered to only a portion of the total student population in the weeks before the start of fall semester. It is difficult to imagine involving additional students in collaborative research, scholarship and creative work given our current time constraints during the regular academic year without reallocating faculty and student workload.”

Timmerman said the change in teaching load will provide faculty with more opportunities to move beyond the teaching of information to the analysis, synthesis, integration and application of that information.

“Moving to fewer courses helps enable this good work because it opens up time for students and faculty to work together to enhance their education, deepen their understanding of a discipline and elicit their engagement in specific problems, theories, topical issues and research questions,” he explained.

As the number of courses each student takes decreases, corresponding increases will occur.

“As we now approach the change itself, we must extend and deepen this conversation about the rigor of our classes across all departments and programs at Monmouth,” said Timmerman. “As we increase our academic rigor, we must also work together to increase the amount and the effectiveness of the academic support, advising and informed guidance our students receive.”

To facilitate the change, college officials made minimal changes to the general education requirements, cutting them from 13 courses to 10. Monmouth’s innovative four-year Integrated Learning sequence remains part of the gen ed curriculum, along with basic courses in English and communication, two semesters of foreign language, a lab science and a fine arts course.