Once a Week is Not Enough

First, students simply cannot absorb and retain information that is given in one-shot. The beauty of classes that meet three times a week is that students have a chance to replay the information in their heads and practice. With the guiding hand of the instructor, they can get even more direction and be assured that they are “getting it.” An exception to this observation seem to be courses that have more than one part — a lecture and lab, for instance. In some cases, higher level literature courses work, too. There, students get enough time to “get into” the topic. Even in these courses, I still have concerns about the ability to actually learn material when a student is only given one contact period with the instructor.

Second, with courses that meet once a week, students often forget most of the material by the next week. Only the most disciplined students who practice outside of class will be assured that they will succeed. Marginal students often fail.


In many topics, trying to cover the same amount of work in 16 sessions rather than 48 is impossible. Not only do students retain less, but the nature of the three-hour course does not lend itself to reading a full-length book (or some other large task) every week. Students don’t keep up with work and end up dropping or failing.–Shari WilsonOnce a Week is Not Enough (Inside Higher Ed)

Last term, my evening class met only 13 times, and during one of those times I was away at a conference. What with Spring Break, my conference, and Easter Break, there was a three-week period where we didn’t meet at all.

I’m teaching two sections of American Lit this fall. One meets Tu/Th, the other Wed evening.

I was glad to find that someone has so carefully investigated and categorizes the challenges that one-day-a-week courses face, though I can’t say I’m very heartened about it.

Besides the simple fact that it’s exhausting to be “on” for three hours, some students who only come to campus one day a week want me to meet with them after class. I’ve got children to bathe and bedtime stories to read, and I’ve also been on campus for 12 hours, so I’m perhaps not in my most helpful mood. And, of course, many of the students who sign up for night courses do so because they have 9-5 jobs.

Wilson doesn’t talk about how an online component can help keep students in touch with the professor and with each other during the week.