Are Self-Paced Classes Better at the Collegiate Level?
by Ashley Seldon ’24
Some classes at Providence College are self-paced in terms of homework and assignment deadlines. It is common for college students to complain about the workload they deal with and for them to experience time management issues. They are trying to balance time, take care of themselves, work, and make memories with friends under the newly relaxed COVID-19 restrictions. Implementing more self-paced classes could help eliminate the battle to complete assignments on time with hard deadlines. For instance, one of the bio-psychology classes taught at PC is self-paced. Students are still required to show up to lecture and their lab; however, the assignments for the week aren’t due every single class. Instead, assignments have a hard deadline set later in the semester (around the midterm period), and students can choose to work on the tasks when their workload in other classes is lighter.
The self-paced method puts more responsibility on the student to manage their time wisely and ensures that they don’t get too behind in bio-psych so that they are not overwhelmed playing catch-up. However, it also gives the student more autonomy instead of being restricted to immediate deadlines set by a professor. Self-paced classes appear more sympathetic to college students since they are adults. It represents a recognition of maturity. If the student performs badly because they cannot complete all of their missing assignments by the hard deadline, they’re responsible for poor time management skills. Self-paced classes also recognize that people make mistakes. There are times when a student saves an assignment for the last minute, and then they are too stressed because they don’t understand the material and cannot submit it before the next class. One hectic weekend could easily lead to a missing homework assignment. Self-paced courses acknowledge that college students are human and have busy schedules; one missing homework assignment should not penalize one’s grade so heavily. Math business analysis operates very similarly at PC. Every Sunday night, there is a homework assignment due, but that is only a soft deadline. Homework is not thoroughly checked until the middle and end of the semester, when everything has to be submitted. On the homework itself, the student has unlimited opportunities to try problems through the online format. However, quizzes have a hard deadline every two weeks, so the setup provides an incentive for the student to have attempted the homework assignments before taking the quiz.
PC should implement this method of self-paced instruction in more classes. The benefits for very involved students with busy schedules are clear, and the method can help teach adult-aged students life skills. However, this isn’t readily applicable to all classes. For example, English classes where students read books and have to be prepared to come to class to discuss would not operate well under a self-paced method because students would not be able to participate in class discussions. In addition, when a student gets too far behind in a book, who is to say they will genuinely go back on a free evening and catch up on 200 pages of reading? The same goes for every friar’s favorite class: development of western civilization. So, the self-paced method isn’t applicable everywhere, and there certainly should be hard deadlines for quizzes, presentations, exams, and essays. However, for measly homework assignments, the implementation seems simple.
More self-paced classes could help Providence College make itself more marketable to different students. An education article on Bright Hub explores this by explaining that “incorporating a self-paced learning component into current university programs could make them more marketable to different types of learners. Some studies show that self-paced or competency-based programs are better able to attract minorities and non-traditional students.” (Brighthub). While PC is a very reputable college in New England, it is often stereotyped as having a homogenous student body. The advertising of self-paced classes could open doors to students who juggle work or require more flexibility in their education. Keeping hard deadlines for testing will keep students motivated to complete work and help maintain the rigor that PC’s curriculum boasts.