December 2, 2016

College Switches to Semesters

College Switches to Semesters
July 7, 2011

After two and a half years and untold hours of planning and preparation, the College switches from quarters to semesters this fall. Instead of three 10-week terms per academic year, there will now be two 15-week terms. Monday, August 29, is the first day of the first-ever College semester.

To prepare for this change, the College faculty has redesigned the general education requirements, academic departments have revamped their majors and minors, and professors have retooled their courses. Academic advising and residential life have adjusted their programs as well. In fact, just about every aspect of campus life has undergone some change in order to accommodate this shift.

Why go to all that effort? For lots of reasons. During the preparation process, College President Jonathan Palmer outlined some of the advantages to the new system:

  • Semesters will provide students the opportunity to take more courses and broaden or deepen their Principia experience.
  • The semester model allows greater “soak time” for students to engage a subject. This includes additional weeks for adjustment to academic demands and longer working relationships between students and faculty, as well as additional time for defining and deciding on research or other course projects.
  • A semester calendar makes it easier for students to transfer to and from Principia since most colleges now operate on the semester system.
  • With two terms instead of three, the ratio of administrative time to instructional time improves—the total number of instructional weeks is the same, but there are fewer advising periods, fewer finals weeks, and fewer grade submission deadlines.  This returns some time to students and faculty for instruction, research, and other academic activities.  This same “3 beats to 2″ shift benefits operations across the College.
  • The semester calendar aligns more completely with the intercollegiate athletic calendar, which should improve the overall experience for student athletes.

These advantages will begin to be realized this fall. For months now, however, a huge hidden benefit has been taking place—huge in degree of difficulty and return on investment. In short, the transition process jump-started a College-wide re-examination of the entire curriculum. Institutions rarely have occasion to rethink their whole academic array at one time, but when they take up that challenge, advantages abound. The College’s thorough review of all majors, minors, programs, and classes is resulting in new opportunities to improve and innovate within departments and across them. Far more than a mere change in schedule, the switch to semesters is a wide-ranging fresh start!

  • Priscilla Manning

    This is a marvelous undetaking.  My first reaction to the headline was that it is easier to identify credits when communicating with colleges on the semester system.  But as the story goes forward, this change has far deeper reasons to be instituted.  I hope we hear how students who have been learning on the quarter system and go forward on the semester system  respond to the change.

  • Bubba

    As a former Prino that transferred away and back to Principia, I can tell you that the process will be much easier with semesters.  But I do have to say that I enjoyed the quarter system better than the semesters at larger schools.  Change happens and hopefully the current students will benifit from the semester system.  Now we can date ourselves when we refer to “winter quarter.”

  • Coffeeman92

    On the quarter system we took three courses per quarter. On semesters a minimum  of 4.5 courses, probably 5. I assume each course would meet every day. This does not equate to more time for students, but less time for study on each course, plus 5 final exams to cram for during finals week. As a former student I felt that I was able to grasp the material in 3 courses thoroughly. Later, at other schools on semesters, this was not the case.

    • Ken Johnson

      With the semester system, classes do not generally meet every day. Most courses that earn 3 semester-hours will meet 3 times per week for an hour, or 2 times per week for a longer period. There are other daily scheduling options as well  for lab courses, studio art, and certain music courses, for example, or courses that earn different amounts of semester-hour credit, as was also the case under quarters. Ken Johnson, Computer Science Professor, and Chair of College Curriculum Committee

  • Sherwood

    How does that work with abroads? Will they take a whole semester, or will the instruction include more time on campus before going abroad?

    • Principia College

      The structure will depend on the abroad program. Some will be away for nearly the entire semester; others will include time on campus as well as travel. In addition, there will now be more mini-abroads lasting two to four weeks. Check out the Abroad informational pages on our website to find out more:

  • Paul Woodsworth

    As a former Prin student, I really enjoyed the faster-paced concentration on fewer courses under the quarter system.  When my high school switched over from year-long courses to semester courses, I found it easier then to retain information learned from the beginning of the semester than from the beginning of the school year.  By extension, I found it even easier to retain information learned from the beginning of a Principia Quarter, than I would have from the beginning of a semester.

    I am deeply grateful for my time at Principia.

  • Jill

    Hope it goes smoothly and blesses all.  I will be supporting!  I am certain it was given a lot of thought!

  • Anonymous

    I’ll miss that massive Winter break. Oh, well.

    Wait, I’m in my 40’s. Never mind.

  • CS

    I loved and enjoyed the quarter system. I think the interaction and soaking of the subjects was there even then. Hope the transition goes on smoothly. I am glad to have been there before but wish all the current and new students all the best. Prin is great :-)

  • Jenny

    I LOVED the “three class a quarter system” – but it was a rough transition to a 5 and 6 class grad school semester.  I think the change to semesters will also better prepare students for grad school.

  • Lutheria30

    I am a Mother of a Prin. grad and a dedicated Christian Scientist….so, everyone, remember this, It matters not what be thy lot, so Love doth guide….sound familiar…..yes, no matter what, God , good , is really in control and this means only good can result…Newness of anything seems to bring in the human element of fear of change…..This sounds good to me….
    Loosen up and look for the good and expect good!  “All things are working together for good……”