Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
It’s no secret that Cornell College’s version of OCAAT was heavily influenced by the system in place at Colorado College. A few others have sprung up along the way and have reached out to both Cornell and Colorado College as models of intensive learning.
The most recent of those is Quest University, a newly founded school in British Columbia, Canada, with a unique look at both the block plan and education.
That unique look, however, owes some of its roots to Cornell’s own block plan.
The Quest system works similarly to the Cornell/Colorado version. Classes are taught in blocks lasting three and one-half weeks or 18 class days. Eight blocks is considered full time.
However, Quest, which began operations last year with 75 students and expects to have about 200 for the 2008–2009 year, operates on a year-round schedule. Instead of the nine blocks Cornellians are accustomed to, Quest offers 12 blocks, including classes over the summer.
Still, when Quest sought a model for its calendar, it turned to Cornell. Part of the reason was the connection created by Brian Taylor ’93, Quest’s current dean of enrollment and a consultant when the school was being conceived and created.
“I’m reminded going through this this year that the faculty at Cornell are incredible, and how dedicated they really are to teaching,” said Taylor, who also worked in Cornell admissions for four years. “It’s such a huge reminder of how dedicated the faculty at Cornell are, because they have to teach every day.”
“The block plan requires faculty that love to teach.”
Taylor said that many of Quest’s faculty visited Cornell and spent time with the faculty, learning how to design and construct courses, about how to set up lab experiments, and how to control pacing on the block plan. Cornell faculty served as models for this new school.
Also like Cornell, Quest has leveraged the block plan to its advantage when recruiting students.
“OCAAT has been integral here in Canada, where there are no other schools like us in liberal arts. It’s the hook that allows us to have that conversation,” said Taylor. “We really thought our educational experience through,” said Taylor.
Quest also places an emphasis on off-campus study. Taylor says that the block plan, coupled with its year-round schedule, allows its students, much like Cornellians, the flexibility to seek educational opportunities around the world. In fact, Quest requires three blocks of “experiential learning,” which, while not required at Cornell, are heavily encouraged.
Both Quest’s and the block plan’s future look bright, as more and more colleges and universities latch onto the idea of flexible, in-depth educational plans. OCAAT offers a unique educational opportunity that now comes Canadian-flavored.