A 2011 report from the nonprofit education advocacy group Complete College America ("Time is the Enemy") found that students do better academically in shorter courses and are more likely to complete them.
With that research in mind, HCC is expanding its offerings of accelerated, seven-week courses for the spring 2014 semester.
"Data show that students have more success in shorter courses than they do in longer ones," said Matt Reed, HCC's vice president of Academic Affairs. "We want to do everything we can to make it easier for our students to succeed."
During the Fall 2013 semester, for the first time, HCC offered two seven-week accelerated classes, Principles of Marketing and Principles of Management, both three-credit classes taught by business professor John Donnellan.
Nine classes this spring will allow students to earn an entire semester's worth of credits in half the amount of time: Business 101: Introduction to Business (3 credits); Business 115: Computer Applications (3 credits); Environmental Science 137: Environmental Geology (3 credits, plus 1-credit lab); Management 230: Principles of Management (3 credits); Marketing 227: Customer Service and Sales (3 credits); Marketing 240: Principles of Marketing (3 credits); Psychology 110: Introduction to Psychology (3 credits), two sections; Social Science 120: Conflict Resolution and Mediation (3 credits).
Some of the classes begin with the start of the semester on Jan. 27, ending before spring break; others begin March 24 and continue through the end of the semester. Two are one-day Saturday classes that begin March 1 and end April 26. Some of the classes meet on campus, some are brick and click and others are entirely online.
Reed said the long-term goal is for HCC to greatly increase the number of courses offered in a seven-week format. The hope is that this will not only increase achievement and retention rates, but also allow multiple entry points for students who, for whatever, reason, can't start classes at the beginning of the traditional semester.
"If students show up in mid-February, we can say we have classes starting in March," said Reed. "I think that's a better, friendlier answer than telling them to come back in September."
Donnellan said the accelerated, seven-week format worked out well in the two courses he is taught this fall, one in the first half of the semester and one in the second.
The courses each met two days a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. Since class time was effectively cut in half, students had to do more work outside of class. They didn't have as much time in class to devote to group projects. More work had to be done independently
"Needless to say, they had to work twice as hard every week," said Donnellan, who is teaching accelerated marketing and management classes again in the spring, but as online courses.
"From my perspective it worked out well," he said. "It's definitely a concept worth exploring further in more courses."