The Pros and Cons of 3-hour Courses

Bored college students sleeping in lecture hall

Bored college students sleeping in lecture hall


Proper time management among college students is one of the most important attributes to have in today’s frenzied collegiate environment. Some students aim to have as little class time as possible during the week, and register accordingly, whereas others register merely in hopes of acquiring the classes they need to graduate having little care what times those may be. However, most, if not all students must reluctantly accept the fact that a three-hour night class is unavoidable in their curriculum.

Most college students take the courses necessary to achieve their degree, tongue in cheek. Towards the end of students’ collegiate careers is typically when requirements for one’s major must be met. At this point in time, choosing courses according to their time slots is essentially no longer a choice. Registering in general during the later semesters comes with great difficulty, as most major classes are only offered during one semester out of the year. With all of these limitations, three-hour courses are almost necessary to accommodate for a student’s hectic schedule.

Ideal courses for busy students fall on weekdays no later than 5 p.m., either meeting for 50 minutes, or an hour and 15 minutes two or three times a week. However, three-hour classes usually run past 9 p.m., bringing many aspects into question. Does sitting in a classroom for three hours once a week provide enough material? Or is it too much?

Most students would agree that attempting to process information after two hours is almost impossible. In an article entitled ‘Why Long Lectures Are Ineffective,’ written by Salman Khan, a writer for Time Magazine, he describes how students’ focus wane if there is not at least a three to five-minute period of rest. After 15 minutes, most students are entirely zoned out. Khan writes that the Internet can help divide prolonged lectures into smaller sub-sessions outside of the classroom. These divisions would be much more convenient for students commuting from locations further from campus. Commuters are forced to schedule their days around classes already. With a three-hour course in the late evening, they must schedule accordingly, which may delay other important arrangements.

At Pennsylvania’s Millersville University, students not living on campus may live a short drive away, or even over an hour away. Having a far drive from campus can be concerning for those who may have classes or work early next morning. Being held until 9 p.m. seems to be unnecessary, especially for those with an urgency to return home. Returning home from a long day of classes late at night leaves almost no time for a student to complete homework assignments before having to rest up for another demanding day of attention.

However, there are certain benefits to these courses. Meeting just once per week allows many students time for studying, homework, and other activities. As a Millersville student currently enrolled in a three-hour course, Amanda Frey believes there are both benefits and obstructions. “It’s nice to have to go to class one day per week and cover all the material we need. On the other hand, it is uncanny to ask someone to give you their undivided attention for three hours,” said Frey.

From teachers’ perspectives, some think three-hour classes are effective, and others do not. Millersville University professor Martha Widmayer states “I’ve taught courses lasting four hours and forty-five minutes, so the length does not bother me at all. In night classes, there is more time available for students to discuss issues, ask questions, and participate. They also allow me to cover more material in greater depth.” Her opinion brings forth positive aspects of three-hour courses, which may force students to rethink their own opinions. Widmayer said that younger students are not adept to a college environment right away, so three-hour courses would be incredibly overwhelming.

Students who have previously experienced three-hour classes know what to expect, and prepare accordingly. Underclassmen, however, have most likely never been exposed to such a demanding class, and may struggle because of this. If these three-hour courses are absolutely necessary, an option for helping students more may be to limit them to upper classmen only, and avoid having younger students fail a course because of their lack of experience.

Overall, students register for their classes with hopes of receiving a manageable, yet effective schedule. Some consider three-hour courses to be obstacles in the way of achieving this, while others believe they are stepping stones. The debate rages on as both students and professors are torn between the efficiency of classes that, to many, seem unduly long.


One thought on “The Pros and Cons of 3-hour Courses

  1. Pingback: “The 4:5 Rule” : Lecture Capture Video for the Internet Attention Span

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