By Economics and Business Professor Santhi Hejeebu
With One Course At A Time students take deep dives into the study of business. My students and I meet three to five hours per day, every day, for 18 consecutive days. That sounds simple enough, but it is actually profound. One Course, plus Cornell’s small class sizes, translates to a high-commitment, high-accountability learning environment. There’s simply no better preparation for the world of work.
Our environment helps students stay consistently focused and engaged. Absences, endless mental wanderings, dazing and dozing off, stolen screen time—I frankly don’t see it in my classes. My economics and business students are too busy with hands-on activities, group discussion, solving problems at the board, working with specialized software, or undertaking projects for area businesses. One Course At a Time turns students into committed learners.
Our unique environment also means students are held accountable—to themselves, to their classmates, and to me. Each and every day students have something due. Tomorrow’s material builds on today’s content and activities. So if questions arise and clarification is needed, students owe it to themselves to speak up. When students are working in groups and engaging in class discussion, students report to one another. Knowing that your peers are depending on you is a big motivator. As is true in the work-world, deadlines are tight. But unlike the workplace, struggles and stumbles are expected, and you will be positively encouraged and supported every step of the way.
It’s hard to underestimate the lifelong skills and habits that come with years on the block plan. Mental focus and time management skills are just two qualities that employers and alumni repeatedly tell us about. When pursuing his M.B.A. on the semester plan, one recent Cornell alumnus would complete his papers in two to three days, rather than the three weeks allocated in the syllabus! His classmates marveled on how he could finish his work so rapidly. Having been trained on the block plan, it was simply natural for him to finish early.
As a teacher, I value the block plan’s flexibility to do real-time projects with area businesses. Every year we work with an area business to unravel a specific managerial problem. The problems might center on pricing, organizational design, or business operations—the list is long. The companies and I will spend months in preparing the case ahead of the course. We will assemble confidential documents and data to share with the class. Once the course starts students travel to the business site and interview the company’s leadership and the managers involved in the case. Students then have about two weeks to develop viable solutions to the problem at hand. Finally, representatives from the firm visit the Cornell campus to hear our students’ solutions to the problem in the case. This makes for an electrifying learning experience. In just a few short weeks, students grow in knowledge and maturity through intense, immersive projects like live business cases.
Perhaps that’s the real promise of the block plan: you can improve and grow in a short amount of time with consistent effort and focus.