Late last month, Montgomery College President DeRionne Pollard announced that due to health and safety concerns, MC would continue to operate in structured-remote mode until March of 2021. She also announced that, in order to meet students’ needs, the College would decrease 15-week offerings and primarily deliver instruction in seven-week courses through the structured-remote format in spring 2021. Many of the shorter courses will be available as early as the second half of the current fall semester.
“Our summer enrollment trends, in addition to nationwide data, have shown that shorter-term, structured-remote classes and distance learning courses are more attractive to students in the midst of COVID-19 stressors,” Dr. Pollard stated. “These offerings enable students more flexibility to manage work schedules and family needs.”
The College will offer the same extended winter session (which is a five-week, online session) that has been in place for the past three years but will not offer a three-week in-person and online session, which has also been offered.
“In this critical time, the College must ensure that it will offer courses in formats that attract students,” Dr. Pollard said. “Although these changes may require some adjustments by faculty and staff, research around block- and shorter-session scheduling at the college level links them to stronger student success metrics.”
Ana Sofia Baide, an international student who started at MC during the spring semester, sees the benefit of shorter courses after taking four classes this summer. She found that having the class move faster helped her avoid procrastination and kept her engaged from the first day. “It helped me retain information better,” Baide said. She opted for English and Communications courses in the seven-week format, but would still choose to take math classes in the 15-week format.
Our summer enrollment trends, in addition to nationwide data, have shown that shorter-term, structured-remote classes and distance learning courses are more attractive to students in the midst of COVID-19 stressors
The Honduras native and computer science major is confident that with more classes in this new format, she can graduate in a year and a half and then transfer to Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa.
Dr. Sanjay Rai, senior vice president at MC, referenced author and higher education strategist Jeff Selingo, who recently shared advice on how institutions can adapt during this crisis to serve students’ changing needs. “Mr. Selingo challenged us to rethink our norms and assumptions about teaching and learning. His observations of student success at institutions around the country have revealed that students need clearer, faster paths to completion and credentialing for employment, especially during a time of economic recovery,” Rai said.
Montgomery College saw its highest summer enrollment this year over the past five years, with an 11 percent increase over last summer. Fall semester enrollment is down about 6 percent this year compared to last year, but MC is currently seeing double-digit growth in 7-week classes. “Our student success data shows that students are successful in shorter-term courses normally offered in summer, winter, and half-semester sessions,” Dr. Rai said. “This is not an anomaly. National studies echo these findings. Students are telling us that at this time, they need to have more flexibility in their course scheduling to manage new responsibilities and challenges.”