- What are the differences in term length, and start and end dates between quarter and semester systems?
- How will a semester calendar affect summer course offerings?
- Will there be a Winter intersession?
- How will conversion from the quarter to the semester system impact class contact hours? (Revised)
- Will a semester calendar better align with other educational segments (e.g. K-12)?
- What are the external constraints on academic calendars and unit credits?
- What will be the impact on the registration, enrollment, and schedule building and processing calendar?
1. What are the differences in term length, and start and end dates between quarter and semester systems?
Quarters: four equal terms of 10-11 weeks spread throughout an entire calendar year, typically beginning in August or September and ending the following August.
Semesters: two equal terms of 15-17 weeks spread between late summer (August-September) and early spring (April-June), with a third summer term of (often) shorter length.
Both the quarter and semester models offer “early-start” and “late-start” variants through May. The biggest variation in these options is the break length between fall and winter terms.
The campus might elect to insert several days for a ‘reading period’ between the end of classes and the start of final exams. These days will count as faculty work days which are limited to a total of less than 180 days by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the CFA and the CSU.
2. How will a semester calendar affect summer course offerings?
Converting to semesters should not affect summer course offerings negatively. Most CSU campuses that are on semesters typically have several different (but concurrent) summer sessions.
3. Will there be a Winter intersession?
Many semester campuses have special “intersession” classes in January, held between the Fall and Spring semesters, that meet for two or three weeks of intensive study. These classes allow for field trips or activities that are otherwise hard to fit into the typical course modules. Additionally, these special sessions help provide students with an additional opportunity to take required courses and earn credit toward graduation.
Many CSU semester campuses have had a Winter intercession. CSU Fullerton has two intersessions that are 5 weeks and 3 weeks long and are run by the University Extended Education Student Services. CSU San Marcos has a 2-week winter intersession. CSU Fresno has a 2.5-week winter intersession and a 3-week May-June intersession.
4. How will conversion from the quarter to the semester system impact class contact hours?
Currently, under our quarter system, an instructor teaches approximately 12 units (three 4-unit classes) which is equivalent to approximately 12 contact (face-to-face classroom) hours over 10 weeks three times a year. This is a total of 360 contact hours. Under the semester system, an instructor will also teach approximately 12 units (four 3-unit classes), again equivalent to 12 contact hours, but over 15 weeks twice a year. This again is a total of 360 contact hours.
5. Will a semester calendar better align with other educational segments (e.g. K-12)?
All local community colleges offer semester-based calendars with some version of fall and spring semesters with winter and summer sessions. Assuming that the semester calendar adopted by CPP matches these other institutions, there will be alignment at that level. For local K-12 school districts, the school calendars vary. Walnut Valley and Rowland School Districts offers a semester system for their high schools and a trimester system for their elementary schools which begins the last week of August, with a break between Christmas & New Year, spring break the first week of April, and the school year concluding the first week of June. The Pomona Valley School District also offers a semester system but their school year doesn’t begin until the week after Labor Day with spring break the first week of April, and school ending the 2nd week of June.
6. What are the external constraints on academic calendars and unit credits?
There are several issues that constrain options for an academic calendar; however, there is great flexibility even within these constraints.
- The typical academic year shall consist of 147 instructional days (+/- 2), or the equivalent in effort.
- There shall be a minimum of 170 academic work days, or the equivalent in effort, in the academic work year. Note that “academic work days” include exam days, commencement, preparation/meeting days such as Fall Conference, and days on which are expected to be working, such as those between finals and when grades are due. There shall be a maximum of 180 academic work days for each academic year employee, pursuant to the CFA Collective Bargaining Agreement (20.4).
- For accreditation purposes, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges defines a semester as 17 full weeks, with at least 15 full weeks of academic course work, one week of break/study, and one exam week) or its equivalent in effort.
7. What will be the impact on the registration, enrollment, and schedule building and processing calendar?
Schedule Building: Academic departments normally take several months to plan and build course offerings for the next term. This timeline is not based on the type of calendar the campus follows. Class schedule building will most likely remain at four to five months prior to the next term.
Registration: In the quarter system, the short timeline means that there are very small breaks (or even overlaps) between the various registration periods, and the registration periods are often no more than two weeks long. In the semester system, there will likely be longer registration periods and longer breaks between registration periods. This could potentially result in changes in the “drop policy” (when students drop classes without a petition, or without receiving a W grade) although the campus will still be required to align with EO 1037. At CPP, students can currently drop without record through the 5th day of instruction and without permission of instructor through the 15th day of instruction. Drop periods without permission of instructor on semester campuses are (days of instruction): Northridge 10th day, Long Beach 10th day, Fresno 20th day, Sacramento 10th day, Fullerton 10th day.