7x1x7 Academic Calendar FAQs
What are the main reasons for shifting to a 14-week semester?
One of the main drivers for this change is to allow for a one-week fall break. The Student Experience Task Force strongly recommended a week-long fall break, which allows for contiguous days away from class instead of one-day breaks scattered throughout the semester.
When COVID-19 drove us to a 14-week semester to accommodate an unusual schedule, the Calendar Innovation Committee used this as an opportunity to further explore the idea of giving our students a one-week break within the 14-week semester, which was well-received. A week-long fall break is expected to provide our students a much-needed respite from the intensity of their studies, allowing them to rest, rejuvenate, catch their breath, catch up, travel for job interviews, work on research with their faculty, do a community project or any other use of their time they would find valuable. Such breaks are also beneficial to faculty for the same reasons.
A week-long break in the fall then aligns the spring and fall semesters and will likely take pressure off Thanksgiving week and allow that to be a three-day holiday instead of the de-facto weeklong break that it has become.
Why was the pilot extended by another year?
As the Calendar Innovation Committee met with various groups of stakeholders, they received a significant amount of support for the 7x1x7 model of the 14 week semester. They also heard from stakeholders concerned that instructors would attempt to cram 15 weeks’ worth of materials into a 14 week semester, which was not the intention of the pilot.
The 14-week calendar piloted in AY21-22 provided an opportunity to gather faculty and student input. Based on their feedback, we are making adjustments to next year’s pilot. The pilot is an iterative process and our intention is to continue to improve it with each phase.
The concept of an extended fall break was only discussed in theory, so to truly evaluate its utility, a week-long fall break will be inserted into the 2022 fall semester. The expectation is that the break during the pilot will be assignment- and exam-free.
The extended pilot time will also allow for time to ensure that faculty have the tools and resources they need to adjust their course material to accommodate a 14-week semester.
Together, these activities will allow for a more meaningful evaluation of the 7x1x7 pilot.
How long will the pilot run?
Depending on the findings during the next year of the pilot, it may extend for one more year. It is possible that before making a final determination, we will choose to fully assess both the fall and spring semesters with the full one-week break.
The Calendar Innovation Committee, in collaboration with IR&A and the Eberly Center, will work to create an assessment plan.
How does the 7x1x7 calendar support a high-quality education at CMU?
We know that when students are extremely stressed or exhausted, they do not learn or absorb as much material as is intended. The mid-semester break afforded by the 7x1x7 calendar intends to reduce stress and exhaustion so that our students can learn more effectively.
In terms of time, we know that quality is more important than quantity in a learning environment. Seat-time alone does not define the amount of learning that occurs and coverage does not equate to learning. Ultimately, the 7x1x7 calendar supports the same high-quality education that CMU has always offered and goes a step further to improve it with student health and well-being as a core mission.
The proposed calendar also offers opportunities for innovation. For example, instructors can consider using our newfound ability to record presentations so that classroom time can be used for more hands-on and lasting learning. This is an opportunity to consider ways to learn more effectively and deeply while being mindful of how we use our time in the classroom.
How does the 7x1x7 calendar benefit students?
One of the biggest issues our students face is stress. The additional week-long break offered in the 7x1x7 model directly addresses this issue by offering much-needed respite. The 7x1x7 model intends to give students a real and significant break during the middle of the semester to reduce stress and exhaustion so they can learn more effectively.
This model also challenges faculty to explore creative ways to achieve their learning objectives with two fewer class periods. It also aims to hold instructors accountable for the hours they demand to ensure they are in line with the credit given, reducing demands where appropriate. This is intended to achieve a greater amount of high-quality learning and lower stress.
How does the 7x1x7 calendar benefit faculty and staff?
While adjusting courses to accommodate the pilot requires additional effort for some instructors at the onset, they will benefit from the time offered by the one-week fall semester. Instructors can use this break to catch up on other work, use paid time off, or any other way they see fit. The fall break offers the same benefits as the spring break.
In addition, faculty in mini-based programs will have a week to finish grading mini-1 and prep for the beginning of mini-2.
Is the reduced semester simply a cost-saving measure?
No. There are no cost savings associated with this model. This initiative, first and foremost, is intended to be an investment in the health and well-being of our community.
During spring and fall break, the university is not closed and continues to operate as usual. All services, including food service, are available to students who stay on campus during spring break, and will similarly be available during the fall break. Resources such as these will not be reduced or detracted.
Are instructors expected to include all material taught in the 15 week semester into the 14 week semester? (The short answer is “no”)
No. As was communicated throughout the pilot in AY21-22, the intention of a 14-week semester is not to cram material into a shorter timeframe, but rather to assess course content and modify where necessary to accommodate a 14-week semester.
The Eberly Center offers guidance to instructors on how to adjust their courses to a 14-week semester.
How can we ensure that instructors will adhere to the intention of a 14-week semester and not include too much material in their courses?
Instructors are asked to work with the Eberly Center to:
- Review their current course material to identify required versus special topics, the latter of which could be offered in a self-study mode and not required as part of the graded content.
- Assess materials that could be considered review material and consider offering this material in an asynchronous mode so that students who could benefit from extra reviews can do so while not taking up valuable classroom time for everyone.
- Identify topics that could be taught in a different, more efficient manner.
- Determine their needs during the two weeks of finals, including whether better use of this time is possible so as to provide more time during the class periods to be used.
- Analyze course material to make sure it effectively addresses the learning objectives.
Instructors should also work with the registrar and the Vice Provost for Education to identify courses that ask students to work well beyond the number of units assigned and make adjustments accordingly.
Additionally, we will work with the deans and department heads to rein in those courses' demands or assign them more units. We will not permit courses to continue to demand large amounts of time for the credit given. As a reminder, a 12 unit course means 12 hours of work per week, on average, for a semester course, including both in-class and out-of-class work.
What are you doing proactively to help instructors restructure their courses for a 14-week instructional calendar?
We will continue to communicate regularly with instructors and academic leadership on expectations. Consultations and support offered through the Eberly Center will provide faculty consultation sessions and other forms of help in doing this.
Additional resources and forums will be made available, including instructor-specific FAQs and forums to share best practices.
How can finals weeks be used in the 7x1x7 calendar?
Each semester, we dedicate two full weeks for finals, but only about one-third of courses use finals weeks for their intended purpose. In the pilot, we suggest that if instructors do not want to remove materials from their course, they use the time afforded during finals week for exams or project presentations that otherwise would occur during the semester.
In cases where courses have a required set of topics to be covered and require the use of finals week for exams, we are using the pilot to continue to explore solutions in these situations. For example, we may consider specific cases in which some class periods require extensions (along with the units of credit given) where the material must be covered and there is no alternative. Based on the data collected thus far, it is the Committee’s sense that the number of these courses is limited.