Compressed Calendar Frequently Asked Questions
- What is a “compressed calendar?
Compressing a calendar means altering the academic schedule from a 17.5-week semester to a 17- or 16-week semester (the minimum mandated by California Ed Code) without loss of instructional time in the classroom. Most community colleges convert to 16-week semesters to better align their academic calendars with those of 4-year institutions.
According to the most recent data published by the State Chancellor’s Office, 68 of the 116 California Community Colleges have converted to a compressed calendar while 45 colleges have remained with the traditional 17.5-week academic calendar. Three CCCs are on the quarter system. No colleges have shifted back to a traditional academic calendar from a compressed academic calendar.
- Why are we considering a compressed calendar?
Community Colleges that have adopted a 16-week semester consistently report between 1 and 2% increase in student retention and success. Some colleges offer a winter intersession, allowing students to fast-track their academic studies. The 16-week semester more closely aligns with many UC and CSU formats, facilitating the transition of transfer students. Research indicates that the compressed calendar offers greater convenience for students who are concurrently enrolled at more than one institution.
Colleges that have converted to the compressed calendar report overall satisfaction with increased scheduling flexibility. Faculty and administrators report that they appreciate the additional time to prepare for classes, process grades, and bring closure to previous term activities before the start of the next academic term.
- How would the new schedule affect instructional time?
Conversion to a compressed academic calendar requires that we develop a schedule of classes that replicates as closely as possible the same amount of instructional time for each course that we have under the current semester length. If a three-unit class currently meets for 54 hours per semester (3 hours x 18 weeks = 54 hours), in the compressed schedule the class would still meet for 54 hours, but the schedule would require more instructional time per week. The same calculation would be applied to the lab portion of any class. Class hours may include one 10-minute break per hour, and the need for 10 minutes of passing time would also be calculated into the schedule.
- How would class times be affected?
Scheduling of courses must be consistent with the class hours indicated in the approved course outline of record for completion of the course. We are evaluating compressed calendar schedules at a number of community colleges in California to identify a model that would best fit Solano College. Individual class schedules must be based on five-minute increments for starting and ending times. As an example, a 3-unit class that now meets for 17.5 weeks from 9:00 am to 10:15 am two days per week, with 10:15 to 10:25 allowed for passing time, might meet for 16 weeks from 8:00 am to 9:25 am with 9:25 to 9:35 for passing time. We would still have at least 10 minutes of passing time between classes.
- How would lab times be affected?
The same method used to calculate minutes of instruction for lecture classes can be applied to lab classes to determine how the schedule would be different under a compressed calendar. The calculated time may be different depending on if the lab meets one, two or more times per week.
- Would the change to fewer instructional days affect our paychecks?
No. Since no instructional time is lost under a compressed calendar our paychecks would not be affected.
- Would the change to fewer instructional days affect retirement through STRS?
No, the compressed calendar would not affect STRS retirement.
- Would we still have a finals schedule?
In converting to a compressed academic calendar, some colleges vote to eliminate the finals template and hold exams during the last week of instruction. Most colleges moving to a 16-week semester vote to offer finals during the 16th week of the semester. If we proceed toward adopting a compressed calendar, we will need to determine the best option for Solano College.
- Would faculty have to change their syllabi?
Yes, the syllabus for each course would need to be changed to reflect the different number of class sessions.
- Would course outlines need to be changed?
No, the curriculum, unit value, and student learning outcomes would all remain the same under a compressed calendar.
- Would there be a winter intersession?
We will have to evaluate this for Solano College. There is no requirement that a winter intersession be offered. Some colleges have added a winter intersession as a way to offer students a chance to take additional classes during the academic year. It would also offer additional employment opportunities for faculty. Impact on workload in support services will be an important consideration during this evaluation.
- Would summer session be longer?
It is possible that a longer summer session could be offered, but that will be a function of the discussion and negotiations which would follow a decision to move to a compressed calendar.
13. Would there be a Spring break?
Some colleges have determined that student motivation is negatively affected by spring break and have opted to move the week off to another time. For example, Mt. San Antonio College voted to eliminate Spring Break in order to accommodate a 10-week winter intersession. We will need to evaluate the best scheduling scenario for Solano College.
- Could we include a “college hour” in the schedule to accommodate extracurricular activities for students?
In order to decide whether a college hour is feasible for Solano College, we will need to evaluate a variety of potential schedules and look at overall facility use. Some departments may be able to adjust class schedules around a college hour and others may not. We will also evaluate the demand for extracurricular activities and meetings during this time.
- What implications does this calendar have for counselors and librarians?
Some colleges have found that a compressed calendar gives librarians and counselors greater flexibility in offering services to students, faculty, and staff. For example, with an extended January break, students would have more time before the beginning of the spring semester to meet with a counselor and develop an academic plan. If we lengthen the summer session or add a winter intersession, we would need to change the counselors’ schedule and expand library hours.
- What implications does this calendar have for classified staff?
Although classified professionals would experience no reduction in their regular annual work schedule resulting from a move to a compressed calendar, the implications for change in their workload timing patterns need to be carefully studied in evaluating the pros and cons of such a move. We are taking the approach of a multi-year, multi-phased study in order to examine all implications including this important aspect.
- Are student fees/tuition for the shorter terms the same as those for the full semesters?
Yes. All fees remain the same from term to term unless there are changes imposed by the State of California.
- Would a compressed calendar affect our flex activities?
Possibly, but this is a function of planning discussions and negotiations. Some colleges vote to move flex days to the beginning or end of the semester, since placing them within the primary terms has the effect of lengthening the instructional year for students with no instructional benefit for them. We need to evaluate the best practice for Solano College as we consider a possible move to a compressed academic calendar.