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Supercourse: condensing eight months of material to two weeks

Superhuman efforts won’t be needed for success.

by Jeanne Armstrong

superhuman

What do you call it if you condense eight months’ worth of course material into just two weeks? Some might call it cramming, but two Brock University professors have named it a Supercourse.

“Introduction to Community Health Sciences” typically runs as a full-year course, but Brent Faught and Madelyn Law co-taught a compressed version over two weeks in May. Classes ran Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., wrapping up each day with a quiz, followed by a three-hour exam both Saturdays.

The two professors from the faculty of applied health sciences say the pressure of this kind of environment can actually improve retention. What with the daily quizzes and lengthy class time, students couldn’t afford to get away from the content. “Students studied more because they had to,” says Professor Law.

The better retention was reflected in students’ marks, with the average class mark eight percent higher than for the full-year course. No one failed.

Professor Law says that using a variety of teaching styles, including guest lectures, videos, seminars and online activities, helped keep students engaged and the classes from getting monotonous. Dr. Faught taught the first week of classes and Dr. Law the second.

Even though the course was naturally pressed for time, Dr. Faught says the model appealed to the students. “It’s a style of learning that’s conducive to student lifestyle.” By getting a course out of the way early in the summer term, students were free to take on a job and other commitments for the rest of the summer.

A post-course survey revealed that the vast majority of students were pleased with the course overall. Only four percent said they wouldn’t take the Supercourse format again.

Based on the positive response, Professor Law says she plans on teaching the course again next year, and she doesn’t think much will be changed about the formula.

As for the name, Supercourse, “We’ll probably keep calling it that,” she says.

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