In December and January, two classes piloted a new evening time slot, meeting throughout the block from 6-9pm.
Ryan Derby-Talbot, former Chief Academic Officer, said the idea came out of larger discussions about space issues on campus. While the current academic building has always had space constraints (hence tutors’ offices in Red Tusk), future student body increases will call for more creative planning.
“We haven’t hit the limits yet, but we’re getting close”, Derby-Talbott said, “and I can see a day coming when classroom space congestion will start to dictate certain choices.” While there are still open classes during morning and afternoon hours, evening class could help prevent space issues from affecting tutors’ preferences or pedagogical approaches. Currently, tutors can decide whether they want morning or afternoon times, and they will always get their preference.
Derby-Talbott said no one is committed to the evening class idea yet: “If it worked, I don’t think we would run a full night version of morning or afternoon class, but it would give us some flexibility”. The program will only continue next year if students and tutors respond positively.
Two of the three students I spoke to enjoyed the irregular hours. They liked the freedom of having their whole day open, and the opportunity it gave for long daylight hours spent outside.
Still, the open block of free time brought challenges for some. Nobody I spoke to had the energy to work after class, so it was important how they scheduled the next day. Phin Tshabalala, who was in December’s Romanticism foundation block said, “I think you have to be way more hands-on. You have to sit down and say, ‘I’m going to plan out my day for tomorrow and know exactly what I’m going to do’.” Elsa Elani, who was in Evolution in January, said doing work on one day only made her worry she’d burn out in a concentration class, “I felt like I didn’t have enough time, which is interesting because I had the entire day.”
The irregular hours brought some a little closer to classmates. The December class ate together in the Caf frequently. Pin said the schedule might have improved classwork: “The group work, I thought, was more solid because we were all up here together and we spent time together. After class we would hang out before going to bed.”
All three students agreed that the evening class time could be isolating. Attending most clubs or meetings became impossible. Since the irregular hours also meant eating earlier or later, time normally eating with friends disappeared. Elsa, who is a second year and usually cooks meals at home, said she rarely saw her roommates during the whole block.
It’s clear that evening class won’t work for everyone. Athletes often practice around 6-9pm, and anyone involved in groups on campus will have issues. But it might work for some. The December and January classes were foundations, and outdoorsy students could be active during the day and still get work done. For others, it may be that the added commitment of evening class would suit a concentration block better, when students know what course-load to expect, and may appreciate a little isolation.
Derby-Talbott said that opportunities to experiment with new ideas like evening class is what he loves about Quest: “A lot of ideas die at board room tables in traditional universities. And here, what I really like is we can kick it as a problem into our big problem solving space–which is the campus–and try it out.”