Brigham Young University Hawaii will follow a new year-round academic calendar starting in January 2009 that features shorter winter and fall semesters with longer class hours, three terms over the spring and summer, and shorter breaks in between. The new schedule will enable a diligent student taking a full load to complete a bachelor's degree in three years.
Dr. Max L. Checketts, BYUH Vice President for Academics, explained "the primary purpose of the new calendar is to have more of a year-round school process, which helps us serve more students at a reduced cost to both the Church and the students."
He added that many universities across the country are following this trend, with some variations: For example, BYU-Idaho offers three 14-week semesters while the three terms in the new BYUH schedule is more "respectful of families with children" and the local public school system calendar.
"We're going to try to encourage most students to take the regular fall and winter semesters, and then take two of the terms, which will be the equivalent of another semester. This should be especially attractive for the international students, because most of them are here anyway."
"We hope to see 2,000 students sign up for spring and first term," Checketts continued, noting that summer term will probably have the lightest turnout.
Checketts explained lengthening a normal BYUH class from 50-to-60 minutes enables a semester to be shortened from 16-to-14 weeks. "We think in a 60-minute timeframe we can use many different modes of instruction, and that will actually improve the quality of teaching — one of our other imperatives. In fact, this is a great step to meeting all of our imperatives ."
Checketts said a likely scenario to graduate in three years calls for a student to take 15 credits during "a total of six semesters, and the remainder over five or six terms."
He added that students, with a 10-minute break between classes, must get accustomed to the new class starting times.
Faculty will also have to adjust: Current contracts typically call for them "to teach 30 credit-hours per year. Up to now that means they've been teaching 12 in the fall, 12 in the winter, and six in one of the terms. As part of that they can request the reduction of one class equaling three credits to be used for creative scholarship."
Checketts said BYU-Hawaii has submitted a request to the Board of Trustees "to offer an augmented contract for 36 hours, which would mean they teach fall, winter and two terms, with one term off. It would include an increase in compensation."
"I'm excited about the new academic calendar," he continued. "I really think it's essential in helping us meet some of our objectives. Along with that excitement comes the realization that there's a lot of work to do. I experienced two such transitions at BYU-Idaho, and I know how much work is involved from the administrative, faculty and student perspectives."
For example, course syllabi have to be changed from 16 to 14-week time frames, Peoplesoft™ computer systems have been adjusted, and students receiving assistance can take advantage of a new law allowing them to have more than two semesters of financial aid.
Checketts said there will likely be other adjustments to make as the new calendar schedule actually comes into play, "but I know that it's doable."