New 12-week study term for 2009-2010

Erindale College Council approved aproposal for a twelve-week fall term at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) on December 11, 2008, which will take effect as of next September for the 2009-2010 academic year. The shorter fall term will allow students an additional one week study break between the end of classes and the start of examinations for the fall session.

This new schedule reflects similar changes that have been made at the University of Toronto St. George campus. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences at St. George is introducing a five-day November break, effective next fall term from November 11 to 15. In addition to this break, St. George has scheduled a pre-exam study period from December 5 to 8, with exams starting on December 9, 2009. This year, students at St. George and UTM only had a regular two-day weekend between the end of classes and the beginning of the exam period.

Details of the new schedule at UTM have not yet been posted, but the registrar and director of Enrolment Management, Dianne Crocker, has indicated that there will be a break before exams in December. Crocker also mentioned that the Scarborough campus has had a twelve-week fall semester for several years now.

We thought that this would help students be more successful, said Crocker. We checked with QSS [Quality Service to Students] and found that students were very supportive of the twelve-week term, before bringing it to Academic Affairs Committee. According to the Office of the Registrar website, QSS is a council at UTM composedof students and staff who meet monthly to discuss issues concerning student life.

It was important for students to be on board, Crocker added. Students have always found it a bit challenging to end classes on a Friday and start exams on a Monday.

The [proposition for the] twelveweek term was introduced to the Academic Affairs Committee by Dean Gage Averill, and the registrar and director of Enrolment Management, explained Crocker. After it went through Academic Affairs, it was passed to the ECC [Erindale College Council] where it was approved.

In response to concerns about the shorter term affecting course curriculum and quality, Crocker assured that instructors would have to adapt course content to an extent. However, due to the changes introduced, classroom instruction will not have to adapt overly to the new twelve-week term.

Previously, more time was dedicated to covering the syllabus during the first class of the term, and with Blackboard as a means of communication with students, Crocker described how the first classes are now dedicated to instruction. Now the course syllabus is distributed online, so the first classes can be content drivers.

Several students seemed to agree that a break between the end of classes and the beginning of exams would be helpful.

That would be really good. Right before exams, you want to be able to have time to go to your instructors and ask questions, commented Bianca Jivan, a first-year life science student. Last term we just had the weekend to study and then, boom, exams. I really had to cram for my first test.

Second-year commerce student Kathleen Egan was enthused by the idea of a week off before exams. If you have a class that ends on Friday and starts on Monday, the material you just learned would be on the exam. I think students need a week to study.

There were some students who thought that a shorter term may not be in their best interest. If there is a gap between classes and final exams, I will probably forget the material, said Solomon Nie, a first-year commerce student. I feel like its a waste of time to have a week gap.

The initiative of a break before the winter exam period is not unique to the University of Toronto. Ryerson University allowed a four-day weekend for students before their December examination period commenced. Queens University scheduled a similar study break of five days last semester from November 28 to December 2, while the University of Waterloo staged a three-day break from December 2 to 4, 2008.

The University of Toronto was one of the only universities in Canada who did not have a break between classes and exams, said Crocker. We are now basically in line with all the other universities.

UTMSU President Wasah Malik would seem to agree with that sentiment, noting that If this 12-week semester change were not to happen at UTM, UTM students would be at a disadvantage in comparison with other universities since our students would have less time to prepare for the examination period; UTM would be the only university with other universities since our students would have less time to prepare for the examination period; UTM would be the only university with the 13 week semester in Ontario.

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