In the ever-evolving landscape of higher education, adapting to the needs and preferences of both faculty and students is crucial to fostering effective learning environments. Early this quarter, the English department at Seattle Central conducted surveys to gauge faculty and student preferences regarding class modalities, focusing on striking a balance that sets students up for success.
Kaitlin McClanahan, English department coordinator and tenured faculty member, created the survey to plan for the upcoming academic calendar year. As the architect of the English class schedules, McClanahan acknowledged the importance of aligning class modalities with faculty preferences for different class formats: fully in-person, hybrid, virtual hybrid, and fully online. The survey also delved into scheduling preferences, exploring options such as daily reinforcement (a practice in which curriculum is taught day-to-day) during Monday through Thursday classes or scheduling longer classes on fewer days.
With 19 faculty members responding (10 full-time and nine part-time), the results highlighted a range of preferences. While a majority favored hybrid classes (with a 50% online and 50% in-person or virtual split), there was also interest in fully online and fully in-person options. Most faculty members prefer longer class meetings twice a week over daily meetings and prefer class sessions lasting 65 minutes for English 101 and 102.
McClanahan found the results in line with expectations, noting that the shift from daily classes to a more flexible schedule aligns with the evolving needs of students at Central, many of whom transfer to four-year universities.
“It is rare in any four-year college or university to have daily classes; you usually meet two to three times a week,” she said. With that, McClanahan believes in preparing students to manage that kind of schedule, as it can be a big shift from high school. Students can get more comfortable with a non-daily schedule while giving flexibility to faculty.
At the same time, McClanahan expressed a desire to offer a few entirely in-person classes to accommodate students who benefit from a more traditional learning environment.
“I think that so many students know that they learn better in person, and learning is ultimately a very social activity,” she said.
A personal curiosity also motivates McClanahan.
“I’m really curious institutionally, how we’re approaching scheduling post-pandemic because there’s a balance between what’s needed for students to succeed versus what faculty and students want in terms of an ideal schedule,” she said, “I just want to make sure that all learning styles and types are being accounted for, and I want to make sure that we’re offering what students need, not necessarily what either the teachers or the students want, ideally, in terms of a flexible schedule.”
Recognizing the importance of student perspectives, McClanahan has also initiated discussions with students and conducted surveys to measure their preferences.
The survey sent to 42 English students on Jan. 18, indicated a strong preference (67%) for hybrid courses in English 101, while 36% expressed interest in fully in-person classes. Notably, 40% showed enthusiasm for a fully in-person English 102 option. Among those interested, approximately 24% favored daily meetings, while roughly 59% preferred twice-weekly sessions with a break. The findings suggest a shift towards face-to-face interactions and underscore McClanahan’s commitment to understanding student perspectives, aligning with ongoing efforts to enhance their experiences.
Looking ahead, McClanahan plans to continue to gather feedback from faculty and students, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the impact of different modalities on student success. Discussions will continue to explore the possibility of integrating entirely in-person classes into the schedule, with a cautious approach to experimentation and a focus on what truly supports student learning.
McClanahan suggests collaboration with other faculty coordinators and departments to gain a broader perspective on scheduling approaches. By examining the experiences of departments that already offer entirely in-person classes, such as the Math department, the English department aims to learn from successful models and adapt accordingly.
The English department’s surveys on class modality preferences reflect a commitment to adapting to the changing landscape of higher education. By actively seeking input from faculty and students, the department aims to create a schedule that meets the diverse preferences within the academic community and supports student success in the most effective ways possible. As the English department navigates these changes, continuous collaboration and feedback will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of course scheduling at Seattle Central.