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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star



Accelerated courses are overrated

A ticking watch hangs in front of a computer screen opened to the Blackboard home page. Accelerated courses move at a quicker rate than some students expect. (Northern Star | Photo Illustration)

In today’s fast-paced world, students seek to finish their college degree as quickly as possible, often looking to take accelerated courses. Education should not be treated like a race, and with accelerated courses, students miss a richer and more fulfilling education.

Vera Lind, an associate professor in the history department, taught HIST 323 – History of Science, a four-week course over winter break. Lind said accelerated courses are a great idea, but to compress the material in four weeks is hard.

“I had to cut some material for the four-week accelerated course, it was slightly less material than what I would usually teach there,” Lind said. “Another problem was the scheduling finals. Writing assignments was another problem just because the time was so short.”

Cramming a semester’s worth of knowledge into half the time can lead to not understanding it. It would be the same as reading Cliff Notes: students might learn the main idea but miss the details.

Logan Redman, a first year meteorology major, said accelerated courses are difficult, but once they end, it feels like a weight has been lifted.

“I took one course last semester and it was pretty fast paced,” Redman said. “Every week there were about three videos posted, each one hour long, and there was a quiz per lesson due on Sundays.”

Students have no time to relax or take a break because of how fast-paced the course is and because of all the material to be covered. Some courses are offered simultaneously, so the amount of work suddenly doubles or triples.

“I only tried to get it out of the way first because it was time-consuming,” Redman said. “It feels like a rush to get everything done.”

With the increased workload of an accelerated course, there is no room for mistakes. A bad grade on one assignment could severely affect a student’s final grade. Furthermore, most professors don’t allow late assignments. If something personal happens, there is not always an opportunity to catch up.

Students should take the time to check if an accelerated course is feasible for them. Reaching out to the professors to get an overview of the class is a good course of action.

Mark Fischer, professor and chair of the earth, atmosphere and environment department, emphasizes up front what his class demands of students in terms of time and the deadlines.

“For me the best thing is to try to be very proactive and to give as much information as I can and be as clear as I can right out of the gate,” Fischer said. “And then I think that gives everybody an equal opportunity to decide; hey, is my personal life, my academic life, everything gonna work for me to be able to maintain the pace that this class requires and to meet all the deadlines.”

Students also miss developing relationships with peers and professors in accelerated courses. Despite group project opportunities, students work quickly to accommodate faster deadlines instead of connecting with peers.

“I feel like online accelerated courses don’t do as good of a job interaction-wise. You’re not able to ask the professor questions face-to-face or interact with other students,” Redman said.

Accelerated courses may be appealing, but students should consider what is important to them. Even if they pass, students may miss out on more comprehensive learning and not get the education they paid for.

“There’s always the problem of motivation, especially if it’s an asynchronous course, so I have my doubts because it does need a lot of self-discipline from the students to just keep up with the work,” Lind said.

Students should consider their level of commitment and academic goals when taking into consideration accelerated courses.

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