When incoming freshmen arrived to begin classes at Tennessee State University this fall they found a new and innovative program designed to help make sure they stay on track to successfully complete their general education classes.
Called “Block” scheduling, the program is designed to help students transition from high school to college, build or develop relationships among peers, and ensure success to graduate in four years.
According to Dr. John Cade, interim vice president of Enrollment Management, the majority of new freshmen will participate in some type of block schedule, said, to help them develop the critical thinking and writing skills necessary to satisfy their general education requirements.
“As a result of the Block program, incoming freshman and returning sophomores taking general education courses will experience some of the advantages of staying together as a peer group while taking the same classes, and focus on meeting the core requirements,” Cade said. “It will also make it easier for students to schedule classes.”
With the new program, freshmen and sophomores will be able to choose between 10 different course “bundles” or blocks that contain the courses to meet the general education requirements before they move on to major core classes. The courses include math, speech, English, social sciences, humanities and freshman service-leadership orientation.
Cade said the program fits hand-in-hand with the newly announced book bundle program that allows freshman and sophomore students to buy “e-books” for general education classes, and have books the first day of class.
“This is part of our student success and retention initiatives,” Cade added. “We want to give our students the tools to be successful from day one and make sure they have access to all programs, graduate on time, and be able to start their careers as quickly as possible.”
According to Julie Roberts, director of the office of Academic Success, there will be various levels of the block program to guarantee freshmen full-time class schedules and provide the first step toward fulfilling general-education requirements.
One of those is a cohort program, where students will have the opportunity to take classes, and follow the same set schedule and progress through the program together. Students will move through the program as a unified group.
“During their first semester, students participating in this ‘block’ take a set of integrated courses with the same group of fellow students,” Roberts said. “Behind this block is the idea that people learn better, and benefit from reinforced social and academic support, when they are integrated into this type of learning community.”
More than 200 freshmen have signed up for the cohort block. The learning in this group, Cade added, fosters connections between students and faculty, and promotes the development of peer-support networks during the first college year.
“This will help develop relationships from day one,” said Cade. “When students feel vested in the educational outcome of not only themselves but of others as well, there is a potential that retention rates increase and students complete all four years of their degree.”
The block schedule is just one of many graduation and retention initiatives at TSU, designed to increase the number of students graduating and increasing the percentage of students retained at the University.
Other programs include the Take 15 program, where students are encouraged to take 15 credits hours per semester, and mini-semesters such as Maymester, Xtreme Spring Break, and SUNsational Summer where students can earn up to 12 credits over the three mini semester offerings.
When it comes to student success and retention, added Cade, it really does take a commitment from everyone at the University to ensure the success of all students through programs such as the new book-bundle program, one of the only such programs in the Tennessee Board of Regents system.
“The more we can do to help students succeed through initiatives such the new book-bundle program, the more likely they will want to be here,” added Cade. “Also, the more academically successful a student is, the more likely they will want to be here, and develop into independent thinkers and world-class leaders.”
To learn more about the Block program or retention initiatives, contact the Office of Academic Success at 615.963.5968.