What if you could fully immerse yourself in just one class at a time and really dig in to explore the subject matter? The ability to do just that sets apart Colorado College’s Block Plan. Students take a single course at a time, most often for a single block, which lasts for three-and-a-half weeks.
The small, hands-on, intensive classes typically meet three hours a day, Monday through Friday, giving students the same amount of time in a class as in a traditional semester system—just more concentrated. And the system lends itself well to study abroad or in the field.
Want to study film? Students spend a block in Hollywood. Geology? Your lab is the canyon lands of the Southwest. At the end of each block, students enjoy Block Break, five days without any academic obligations before delving into a new class.
The educational innovation was first implemented almost 50 years ago in 1970. Today it is used at a few other colleges, and there has been a recent resurgence of interest from others. But the format was invented locally by a trio of CC faculty members who still live in the Springs.
“I thought it was a matter of tipping the typical semester on its ear,” says retired professor Glenn Brooks, who is widely acknowledged as the founder. “Instead of taking four courses at once, they take them one at a time.”
It was a simple, elegant insight into the nature of student and faculty engagement. And it continues to be that.
“It’s the most challenging teaching I’ve ever done,” says President Jill Tiefenthaler, who regularly teaches economics. “But it’s also the most rewarding.”
“The Block Plan makes me feel like I am whatever I’m doing in the class I’m taking that Block,” says Ethan Cutler, a senior philosophy major. “When I take English, I’m an arrogant writer for a few weeks, the next block a bemused philosopher, then a hopelessly bad chemist—all of which can be pretty fun.”