One Course At A Time (OCAAT)

What is OCAAT?

I’m studying English and Secondary Education at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa. One thing that makes Cornell special, and a big reason I came here, is their one course at a time (OCAAT) academic calendar. Instead of taking X number of classes semester one and Y number of classes semester two, we have 4 classes or “blocks” a semester. Each block is 3.5 weeks long, so for 18 days you are taking one class–thats it. After that class ends you have a lovely 4-day weekend known as “block break”.

Cornell describes OCAAT as a way of studying that emphasizes focus, allows for flexibility, and as the optimal way to pursue one’s academic passions (as well as discover new ones).

Why I love OCAAT

When I explain the block plan to my friends at semester colleges some are jealous because that “sounds so much easier” (a big misconception). But many are turned off by the idea; they feel like one couldn’t possibly learn a semester’s worth of course material in 18 days. Others say they’d get bored if they didn’t have other subjects to switch between. Here is why I love OCAAT and why you should consider it when selecting colleges (I believe that, currently, the only OCAAT schools are Cornell and Colorado College).

1. Complete course immersion

Personally, I don’t think its ever possible to give 100%. There is always more you could’ve done. But I feel like the block plan allows you to get as close as possible to that 100%. On the semester plan I always felt like I’d have sacrificial assignments (or worse, sacrificial classes) i.e assignments (or courses) that I did halfheartedly in order to give attention to “more important work”. It felt like constant academic triage.

2. No course lulls, no time wasted. 

There is no “syllabus day” and there are no fluff days. My semester peers often say the first 6 or 7 weeks are easy and then, all at once, it becomes difficult. OCAAT is rigorous  which I like, but it’s also fairly consistent. Yes 3rd and 4th week are frantic times because our final is approaching, big papers are due, etc. But we’ve been working hard since day one.

3. Forces us to be efficient.

Similar to my previous point, since a block is 18 days that means a lot of work in a little amount of time. It’s made me a more efficient student. I crank out a research paper fairly quickly and throw together presentations under tight deadlines (after all, you kind of have to). And with little time to procrastinate, I find myself doing it a lot less.

4. No finalS.

That’s right. Come winter break and summer vacation you can take solace in the fact that you just have a regular hurdle to jump, not 4 or more like your semester friends.

5. Block Break

4 DAY WEEKEND. Every. Month.

6. Buying books becomes a breeze.

Thank you OCAAT for not making me spend hundreds of dollars at once. Instead, I can take my time and order my books one block at a time.

7. Off campus study is simple.

You only have that one class so taking a block in Chicago or the Bahamas won’t make big waves in your class schedule for the year.

8. The study buddy system is even simpler.

You guys have the same class schedule so doing homework or studying with a classmate is particularly convenient.

9. If you love the class you’re in for a beautiful month.

10. If you hate the class, well… it’s only a month!

11. Predictable class schedule (all classes end by 3pm, the latest and start at 9am, the earliest)

No awkward time gaps of 4hrs between classes, no classes that are going until 7pm. No back to back lectures. Class runs from approximately 9am to 12pm and/or 1pm to 3pm.

Comment below with your questions about OCAAT!

6 thoughts on “One Course At A Time (OCAAT)

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  3. Wow. This system sounds wonderful. I wish my college had this! How many hours is each class? I feel like it would have to be pretty long to stuff an entire semester worth of reading material into such short time!
    – also an A type English Major in the middle of nowhere

    • Class hours actually aren’t too bad! For science labs they can go pretty long but for every other subject class is max 4hrs a day, 5 days a week: morning class 9-11 & afternoon class 1-3. Some professors opt for one 2.5 or 3hr session ex. 12:20-3 OR pick morning or afternoon only.

      It depends on the class, if you have to read 80-100 pages a night your prof probably won’t keep you for 4hrs because they know you have work to do.

      So in total a block is anywhere from 36–72 hrs of class time.

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