Fort Berthold Uses Blocks to Improve RetentionMay 15th, 2002 | By tcj | Category: 13-4: The Many Faces of Leadership, Tribal College News
With the help of a Bush Foundation Faculty Development Grant, Fort Berthold Community College’s (FBCC) faculty, academic dean, students and staff gathered last summer (2001) to address the critical issue of student attendance, student burnout, and student retention. Students tended to burn out toward the end of the 15-week semester. After brainstorming, the participants considered radically changing the system.
For many years, the tribal college in New Town, ND, offered summer school in a condensed format; a semester’s credit earned in five weeks. Would it be feasible to do this during a regular fall and spring semester? By dividing each semester into three five-week sessions, the committee realized that many three credit-hour classes could easily be offered in two-hour blocks for four days per week. The required contact minutes would be met with minutes to spare.
In the fall of 2001, FBCC put the new schedule into effect. At first, some students were reluctant. After trying it, they realized they could finish two or three classes in five weeks and then move on to a new set of classes. They were able to focus better on the class material because they didn’t have to juggle five or six classes. The block scheduling also benefited instructors, who could offer more classes without feeling overloaded.
The block system has increased attendance, grades, and retention, according to Delores Wilkenson of FBCC. Students reported feeling more successes during a semester; they receive their grades at the end of each five-week session. Many students feel they can better see “the light at the end of the tunnel” when the tunnel is only five weeks long. Students have become so used to the system, they are starting to refer to “a block, a double block (a 10 week long class meet twice per week for 2 hours) and a triple block (a 15 week-full semester class).
The new block scheduling system is constantly being monitored and evaluated by the administration, faculty, and students. Because of positive feedback to date, FBCC entered the spring semester 2002 again using this scheduling system.