Reasons Behind E&H’s Seven Week Sessions

Photo of E&H's main campus, along with the school's motto during the pandemic.

Photo of E&H's main campus, along with the school's motto during the pandemic.

Katie Bolling, Writer

Emory & Henry College students are midway through their first seven week session of the semester. As students and faculty adjust to this nonconventional schedule, some question why E&H decided to go with the two seven week fall sessions.

Dr. Matthew Frederick, an associate provost and director of bands at E&H, was part of the COVID- 19 response team that decided the best course of action for the fall semester. The decision had been in the works for months.

At the beginning of the summer the administration was committed to looking at alternative academic models for the fall,” Frederick said. “We were aware that the science was telling us in May and June that there was going to be a resurgence of the virus in late October and November, and we were committed to being as nimble and flexible as possible if we needed to move to a fully remote delivery system, like last spring.”

Frederick explained that the administration had considered alternatives, but it was ultimately decided that the seven week session model was the best option for students.

“We wanted to be conscious that much of the online-teaching research shows that students can be more successful when they take less courses at a given time versus five to six courses simultaneously in an online learning environment,” he said.

Despite the college’s efforts to make the semester the best it can be, Frederick is aware that students are still experiencing problems. “We certainly recognize that there are many challenges right now for students and we are very committed to providing the best educational experience possible,” he said. 

Anna Fuller, a junior at E&H, has experienced the challenges firsthand.

“At almost 4 weeks in, I can say that this semester has definitely been crazy and like no other. … I feel that the seven week semester is one giant cram session,” Fuller said.

Fuller recognized the effort that went behind the decision to choose this particular model. 

“I understand that no one, including those that had to make the difficult call, was prepared for a global pandemic,” Fuller said.

Scott Sikes, an E&H professor, expressed that professors have also faced new challenges with the seven week session model. “In practical terms, it meant changing nearly everything about the way I approached the structure of my courses. It is impractical and ineffective to be on Zoom for hours at a time, so an enormous challenge was trying to find other means of providing opportunities for students to engage with course content,” he said. 

Sikes expressed that one of the least ideal aspects of the current model is the loss of time for community building, but Frederick is hopeful that students will be able to return to campus and resume a traditional schedule in the spring. 

When we look around and see other institutions of higher education that are having to move to a remote setting … we are very pleased that we can continue our on-campus educational opportunities for our students,” he said. “We are committed to returning to our traditional 15 week semester for the spring.”