AC to Empower Students by Initiating 8-Week Class Sequences

Clock TowerMany clearly would hasten their navigation of higher education if not for the constraints of time. Parents, full-time employees, and those who are both, often find that two classes totaling six credit hours are all they can manage at one time.

Amarillo College therefore is developing pathways to student success that, by shortening most classes from 16 weeks to 8, will give part-time students the opportunity to attend AC on a full-time basis. By next Fall semester, a student who is able to take only two classes at a time could do so twice in a single semester – by taking two 8-week classes during the first half of the traditional 16-week semester, then taking two more during the semester’s second half.

Completing four classes (a total of 12 semester credit hours) in a single semester – still just two at a time – would classify a student as a full-timer and could cut the time they spend in pursuit of a certificate or degree in half.

“Our goal is to move 80 to 90 percent of all courses, whether technical or academic in nature, to an accelerated, eight-week model that will be offered year-round with multiple entry points,” AC President Russell Lowery-Hart said.

It’s a vast undertaking and cannot be accomplished all at once, though a few 8-week courses (in criminal justice and computer information systems) are already on the table. The bulk of AC classes will be shifted to the new format over the Summer and a considerable proliferation of 8-week offerings should be in evidence by next Fall.

Those who are already full-time students at AC, or those who plan to be, also can expect to benefit from the new configuration. Studies show that full-time students who take just two or three classes every eight weeks are better able to maintain focus and, therefore, excel; by the ninth week of a traditional semester, tedium takes a toll: drop-out rates become noticeably higher.

Shorter-sequencing and accelerated-pathways are suddenly buzzwords in higher education because increased retention and completion rates have been shown to follow in the wake of their inception.

“We are 100-percent focused on student success,” Lowery-Hart said. “By incorporating these eight-week class sequences into each full semester, and probably offering just one eight-week summer session, we are setting up all our students for success.”

These are areas of study already set up to offer 8-week classes this Spring:


Computer Information Systems (CIS)

The CIS Department this Spring Semester is offering a pair of 15-credit-hour programs leading to certificates in either Computer System Support or Network Essentials. Each program consists of five evening or online classes, mostly of the 8-week variety, and can be completed within a single semester without ever having to attend school full time.

Only one online class in the Network Essentials pathway is of the traditional 16-week variety: UNIX Operating System I. All the rest are 8-week hybrids (classes delivered partly online and partly in person) and are offered in the evenings, two per 8 weeks.

Added bonus: The Network Essentials Certificate prepares students to take industry-certification exams in CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+ and Cisco CCENT.

All classes within the Computer Support pathway are 8-weeks in duration and hybrids. Two are offered in the first half of the semester, three during the second half. Added bonus: Students on this path are prepared to take industry-certification exams in Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS), CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network, CompTIA Security+.

“It’s exciting,” Department Chair Carol Buse said. “Not only can students emerge after a single semester with an industry-viable certification and the possibility of immediate local employment, but they can then carry these credits forward in pursuit of an associate’s degree here at AC and, ultimately, transfer on to a university.

“I believe the 8-week format is sure to lead to success,” she said. “With only two or three classes to keep up with at a time, I think both students and teachers will find they are more engaged in the process.”

For more information about CIS offerings at AC, please call AskAC at 806-371-5000.

Criminal Justice

Beginning this Spring Semester (classes start Jan. 19), several accelerated 8-week online courses will be offered among the major course options leading to an associate degree in Criminal Justice.

Depending on which major options one might choose, an associate degree could be completed by full-time students within an 18-month timeframe, according to Sarah Uselding, assistant professor of criminal justice.

“It’s really amazing because part-time students can take twice as many classes over the same amount of time, yet still spend quality time on each class,” Uselding said. “This will be particularly beneficial for our students who are working, because they too will be able to complete the degree much quicker.

“In shortening our classes we’ll be focused on quality, not quantity, combining assignments in a way that makes sense,” she said. “I think our students will find they are working smarter in the 8-week format, not harder.”

Traditional lecture classes in criminal justice will be offered in the 8-week format next Fall, creating even more opportunities across the AC landscape. But students who want to get on the fast track to a criminal justice degree this Spring Semester, can do so. To learn more about the Criminal Justice Program at AC, please call AskAC at 806-371-5000.


December 16, 2015