Sunday, 28 October 2012

Quarter Pounder

Rather than two 16-week semesters, UU has four 10-week quarters. So, instead of four hour-ish classes that meet two or three times per week for four months, you have two classes that meet for up four hours once a week for about two months. (Some hardy souls brave a third class, which is not recommended!) The expectation is that you will put in a minimum of 20 hours or work per week for each class. There is some good news and some bad news that goes along with this system.

First, the good news is that you will take a larger variety of classes far more quickly, and graduate sooner than you will in a traditional semester system. Further, the classes are very fast-paced and challenging and thus it is nearly impossible to get bored. Ideal for those of us with a short attention span! Since the classes meet only once a week, your schedule is very flexible. This is especially important if you want to participate in externship or clinical programs. And, you will acquire excellent time-management skills since procrastination is simply not an option! Best of all, if you really don’t care for a class or a professor, it is for only two months. You can do nearly anything for only two months! The light is always there at the end of the fairly short tunnel.
The bad news is the amount of reading required is astronomical, and there is very little turn-around time for completing assignments, even complex ones (especially complex ones!). It is easy to feel overwhelmed. It can be hard to stay focused in a class that lasts four hours, and  missing class is simply not an option - no matter how lousy you may feel. There really is no catching up if you fall behind. And, there is a tendency to sacrifice depth for breadth; it is like that whirlwind tour of European capitals, you barely scratch the surface of the post card. The worst part is when, seemingly just after you started class and settled in, final exams, papers and presentations are all due within days of each other. Then the light at the end of the tunnel becomes the proverbial light of an oncoming train! Finally, the second quarter does not end with the Christmas break, as the first semester would. So much nicer to begin your holiday break with the relief of knowing there is nothing left hanging over your head!
So, which is better? For a master’s program, there is much to be said for a compact curriculum as most graduate students are not anxious to spend extra time (or money) on school. Perhaps there is room for compromise, though. Some classes might be broken into two quarters and offered consecutively so as to allow one to plumb the depths of a critical subject. International Criminal Law and Procedure springs to mind; why not a Law quarter followed by a Procedure quarter? Well, would love to ponder this further, but I am running late for a date with an oncoming train!  

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