Yesterday I wrote a post where I laid out reasons why I am opposed to night school courses in my graduate program. As I said yesterday, “I am against accommodating our full-time worker, part-time graduate student students by moving a significant number of our classes to evening hours.” That post sparked a number of wonderful comments providing a variety of valuable perspectives on the role of night classes in serving various student populations. I didn’t mean to come across as down on part-time grad students or the over all concept of night school. Let’s see if I can lay out a more general framework for class scheduling.
As several of the commenters pointed out, there is a real place for night classes (even midnight classes, shudder) at the undergraduate, and maybe even the graduate levels. For institutions and programs who have made a conscious and informed decision to support the sort of students who will be best served by night classes, I’m all for it. There students and faculty enroll in the program or accept the job knowing that night classes are the norm, not the exception.
Even if a transition is to be made from a daytime schedule to an evening schedule, it could be OK if 1) teaching in the evening is entirely optional for all faculty (not just those with children) and face-time expectations are adjusted accordingly or 2) such a transition occurs over a long enough period where students who enrolled with the expectation of a daytime schedule can complete their degrees during the daytime and faculty that can’t or won’t teach at night have a reasonable chance of finding other employment (so, multi-year transitions are necessary).
Where I am against night classes is where they are a reactive move (thanks for the lesson, RJ) to satisfy a few squeaky wheels without consideration of the overall impacts. In general, I would still say that I am against mandatory scheduling of night classes where the institutional expectation is that graduate programs are research-intensive environments for full-time gradate students and where faculty are evaluated on that basis. In that case, I see more harm than good to both faculty and students in an ill-considered move to night schedules. And it is from that perspective that I wrote the original post.
In sum then I’d say exactly what my post title says: Optimal class schedules depend on institutional and program mission. Finally, I’d say that when contemplating a change of schedule, careful consideration should be made of the actual needs of the student population and not the perceived needs, as the two may be different.