by Brian Johns, Assistant Professor of Engineering

Other professors’ essays highlight the benefits of One Course At A Time by eloquently expressing the depth, engagement, flexibility, immersion, and community bonds found in the Cornell College classroom. As an assistant professor of engineering, it is only fitting to add to these essays by briefly analyzing Cornell College’s One Course At A Time in terms of efficiency from the perspective of a student. Many of the same tools and techniques engineers use to identify areas for process improvement also can apply to the educational schedule.

Movement and delay are typical contributors to process waste. These two qualities cause inefficiencies in the typical semester schedule. However, Cornell College’s One Course At A Time eliminates excessive movement and delay by exhibiting three major time-saving qualities.

  • The Cornell College student does not transfer rooms to attend multiple daily courses.
  • The Cornell College student does not spend time waiting after one class for a different class to begin later in the day.
  • Each Cornell College course is allocated an exclusive classroom. Consequently, the Cornell College student does not need to deconstruct/move a project or lab setup at the end of the day.

The inefficient time segments that are rooted in the semester schedule may seem negligible on a day-to-day basis, but these aggregate to a sizeable amount of wasted time. One Course At A Time eradicates the daily forty-five minutes of swapping classrooms, resetting workstations, and waiting between classes. As a result, each Cornell College student retains an additional 120 hours per academic year (three standard work weeks) compared to the regular college student.

How do Cornell College students utilize this extra time? Some time is spent using campus resources (such as the Center for Teaching and Learning), developing a deeper understanding of course topics. Some of the extra time is spent pursuing their co-curricular passions, whether it is athletics, music, theatre, or participating in one of the more than 80 student organizations. And certainly, a portion of this extra time is dedicated to creating lifelong friendships on the Hilltop.

Another beneficial aspect of One Course At A Time is a process characteristic called “flow.” In manufacturing, flow describes a system in which components are assembled steadily and predictably, with few stops or transitions. Today, flow is being discussed and analyzed to improve efficiency in many sectors, from healthcare to the service industry. Likewise, student schedules can also be assessed in terms of process flow.

Cornell College’s One Course At A Time outperforms the semester schedule when comparing process flow. The semester schedule repeatedly disrupts flow by forcing the students to transition between subjects. A factory would never abandon one partially-completed automobile only to begin assembling a different automobile. Why should learning be any different? Cornell College eliminates the pausing and daily transitioning between subjects and classes, streamlining the students’ attention. This also facilitates uninterrupted student focus from start to finish. The enhanced flow of One Course At A Time enables the depth, engagement, and immersion that are the cornerstones of the Cornell College education.

The elimination of wasted time and the generation of flow are merely two of the countless benefits of One Course At A Time. In addition, the faculty is also dedicated to continually enhancing and revising courses for maximum student benefit. Both Cornell College students and faculty take a chance adapting a schedule that goes against the grain of typical education, but in the end, the overall reward is the recurring success of each of our graduates.