GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Aquinas College is offering a new program this fall that will allow full-time students the option of taking one course at a time.

The block scheduling pilot program for incoming freshman will allow participants to focus on one intensive course instead of having several classes at once.

The program has admitted approximately 80 students, according to Steve Germic, the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.   

“The traditional model has students taking four, five, sometimes six classes simultaneously so they’re obviously multitasking in many ways in those various courses,” Germic said.

The goal is to allow students to focus as they juggle jobs, extracurriculars and other activities. 

“They go for 18 straight days, often three hours a day, the lab classes will have extra time dedicated to the laboratory portion,” Germic said.

Instead of having to remember something taught months ago, they have to recall something learned over a period of a few weeks. 

“We think this a model that meets students where they are now,” Germic said. “Clearly they’re coming to college campuses with higher levels of mental stress than they have historically.”

The campus has finals this week. Freshman in the new program will only have one test or end of class project, at a time and they will be spread out throughout the year.

“Instructors probably won’t be able to achieve the sort of breadth of content they might have achieved in a full semester class but the idea is it’s deep learning that’s retained over the longer term for students,” Germic said. 

The college says the interest well exceeded expectations.

“We initially intended to have a 70 student cohort and so what we did is put an early deadline for depositing for the fall term as a March 1 deadline and in fact we had nearly 140 students deposit for that, which is nearly half of our typical incoming class,” Germic said.

Getting the pilot program ready also required a new approach to how the courses are structured.

“You can’t go in three hours a day for 18 straight days and give a lecture,” Germic said. “That just doesn’t work and so you have to reinvent the way you’re delivering an education.”

Aquinas says other colleges have seen student performance increase with this model and will be evaluating the program to decide if it should be expanded by reviewing the data.

“There are three schools in the country that do what we call a true one class at a time model of block scheduling,” Germic said.

Aquinas would be the fourth this fall.