South Dakota university to offer 18-day intensive courses

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A university in western South Dakota is introducing an unconventional schedule for students interested in completing a college course in 18 days.

Black Hills State University-Rapid City will offer block courses for students who want to focus on and finish one subject at a time, the Rapid City Journal reported. 

University officials said the offering will be the first of its kind in South Dakota.

Traditionally, college courses are held at different times based on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday or a Tuesday-Thursday schedule, and vary by semester.

Under the new block system, students will meet for three hour chunks at the same time in the morning or afternoon for 18 consecutive days. Each course will be separated by breaks of four days. Students will need to enroll in four blocks to qualify as full time.

Gene Bilodeau, director of BHSU-RC, said that there’s evidence learning under the 18-day approach is the same as under the traditional structure, if not more encouraging.

“It’s imperative that students leave knowing the material,” said Bilodeau. “It’s not about shoving it down people’s throats; it’s about learning the material.”

BHSU-RC is a commuter campus that serves working families and single parents. Bilodeau said it can be hard for a working student to adjust when classes meet at different times each semester.

The traditional course structure can also deter military students from enrolling because they can be deployed at short notice. The 18-day block is less risky than the usual 16-week course.

Faculty members have expressed concern over trying to squeeze 16 weeks of teaching into 18 days, according to Bilodeau. The university is offering teachers a stipend to develop new approaches.

The university plans to offer seven 18-day courses between Jan. 8 and May 2, and more next fall if the courses become popular.