MARIETTA, OHIO —Washington State Community College (WSCC) is changing the way it offers classes. Beginning this fall, the institution will divide the traditional 16-week semester into two eight-week sessions. The change is expected to improve student grades and increase graduation rates, as well as provide more enrollment opportunities for adults who are juggling work, family, and other responsibilities.
WSCC is calling the transition Focus to Finish and it’s backed by national research that shows students perform better academically when they can focus on fewer classes at a time, said Vice President of Academic Affairs Sarah Parker. In a traditional 16-week semester, full-time students would take four or five classes at the same time. But with Focus to Finish, they will focus on only two or three classes each session. At the end of the two sessions, the students will have completed the same number of credits and in some cases more. “There’s also evidence that shorter sessions result in fewer dropped courses and lower absentee rates, which means students stay on track and graduate on time,” Parker explained.
Offering two 8-week sessions within a semester is not a new concept at WSCC. In 2018 the college rolled out the idea with just a few courses and has gradually increased the number of classes offered in this format. Beginning fall 2022, however, nearly all classes, with the exception of just a few, will shift to this new format. “We began offering some 8-week classes a few years ago and found that our results supported the findings of the national research. When we saw how our students benefited from the condensed sessions on a small scale, we knew we wanted to institute it across campus,” said Parker.
“This change is one more way Washington State is strengthening support for our students,” Parker further detailed.
Over the past several years, the college has focused on improving student success by providing increased support through the redesign of its Center for Student Success, the consolidation of its support services with the Student OneStop, and the removal of required placement testing. “Our efforts to improve student support have resulted in increases in enrollment, course completion, and the number of students earning degrees and certificates,” Parker added.
Dean of Student Success Kathy Temple-Miller said Focus to Finish will benefit everyone from the overachievers to working students, as well as those students who are struggling academically. “Focus to Finish is advantageous for students who are motivated to get ahead as well as those who have responsibilities outside of the classroom like a job and family. It’s also a great solution for someone who may have missed registration during the first session or performed poorly in a class. They don’t have to wait a full semester to get back on track,” acknowledged Temple-Miller.
Eight-week sessions can also be advantageous for students who may have otherwise chosen to enroll part-time. “We have many students who can only manage two or three classes a semester,” remarked Temple-Miller. “With Focus to Finish, they can take two classes during the first session and an additional two during the second session and suddenly they’re a full-time student. They’ll be able to graduate much sooner than they initially planned.”
Washington State will begin registering students for the fall 2022 semester on April 4. For more information about Focus to Finish, visit wscc.edu/8-week-classes/ or contact the Admissions office at 740.568.1900.