STRATEGIES TO SUCCESSFULLY COPE WITH THE REDUCTION OF HOURS OF CLASS DUE TO CHANGES IN THE STUDY PLAN OF AN ENGINEERING EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM
At the Universidad Veracruzana, as in many other public and private universities in Mexico and the rest of the world, the curricula of engineering programs have changed in the last ten years to meet criteria of reduction in academic credits to allow, among other things, to shorten the time needed by undergraduate students to complete their studies. Programs that previously consisted of 450 or more credits, have been reduced to 350 credits or less. All this despite the fact that technological advances impose future engineers the challenge of having to acquire more and more knowledge and to graduate with skills that allow them to be inserted in an increasingly demanding job market. The apparent contradiction has to be resolved, "do more with less", which, in terms of higher education, can be translated to "learn more in less time."
Some subjects of engineering programs divide their hours per week in hours-theory and hours-laboratory. This document describes the case of a subject whose hours per week decreased when the educational program in which it is taught was subject to modifications in its Study Plan; the subject changed from 7 hours a week (4 days of one-hour theory sessions and 1 day of a three-hour laboratory session) to 5 hours a week (3 days of one-hour theory sessions and 2 days of one-hour laboratory session). This is a subject that often has groups of 25 to 30 students.
With the reduction of the duration of the laboratory sessions, there was not enough time to complete the activities involved in practice sessions; as a result, there were groups that were unable to complete their practices at scheduled times and sometimes the teacher had to summon students to attend additional hours outside the official schedule.
In order to improve the performance of its students and after teaching the course several times, the teacher proposed the academy to modify the schedule for the course as follows: 3 days of one-hour theory sessions and 1 day of a two-hours laboratory session. As a result, the activities of the practices sessions were completed as scheduled.
The perception of students is that a two-hour practice session allow to make a better use of time than two one-hour sessions. This change in the distribution of hours per week that the students work in their subject, benefits them in their learning process.
The authors of this paper suggest that this kind on changes can be applied to the schedules of other subjects which are undergoing similar problems.