Opinion: The Pros and The Cons of 8 a.m. Classes

The sun rises over the quad right before the start of classes on Albion's campus (Photo by Ryan Lemanski).

The concept of 8 a.m. classes is notorious for sparking controversy. Students constantly debate whether or not they should continue to be offered. Some students battle with the agony of waking up for an hour long lecture  while others are morning people, much more equipped to deal with an early start to the day. 

The Pros of 8 a.m. Classes

Besides having the ability to wake up early, not feel tired and still retain at least an hour-long lecture, waking up for 8 a.m. classes has many benefits. 

Students with 8 a.m. classes are more likely to end their last classes early as well, which allots them more time throughout the day for tasks other than academics, such as extracurriculars, sports and relaxation.

“The sooner you start the day, the sooner you get done,” said Nathan Periat, a junior from Toledo, Ohio. “But you have to be a morning person. If you’re not a morning person, you’re screwed.” 

According to the course schedule provided by Albion College’s registrar, the college offers approximately 519 courses for the 2020 Spring Semester, including private lessons, labs, and lectures. Out of the 519 courses, 36 courses begin at 8 a.m.,  and the majority are in the music, science, and psychology departments. So, students who are music, science, or psychology majors may have more regular encounters with 8 a.m. classes than students who are not.

“I like them because I usually get a start of the day early,” said Samuel Hibbs, a sophomore biology major from Battle Creek. “The only thing I don’t like about them is when I have a lot of exams, the 8 a.m.s drag you down.” 

A common theoretical solution to 8 a.m.s is to push it back to begin at 9:15 a.m.. Similar to Hibbs, many students are able to start their day early and enjoy non-academic activities they desire in the afternoon. Students are encouraged to participate in non-academic activities if they want to be a well rounded student, which is possible with 8 a.m. classes offered. 

“It’s hard to make a shift. There’s been studies done about student learning. Traditionally, students your age do better later in the morning. The problem is we get into a time crunch,” said Drew Dunham, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Registrar. “Say we got rid of 8 o’clock classes. So, that eliminates an entire teaching block from the day. There’s 50 to 60% of the students who are athletes. They all want to practice, and they don’t want to practice at 9 or 10 o’clock at night. Where do we shift anything if we don’t have an 8 a.m. teaching block that doesn’t conflict with things students want to do?” 

Albion offers classes in seven time blocks: 8 a.m., 9:15 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:45 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:15 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. These blocks allow students time to go to club meetings, practice, work and non-academic activities that are essential to students’ health. 

It’s not healthy to keep one’s head in the books all day. Students’ brains need rest, and students can find relief from school work and stress through extracurriculars. If the time block for classes shifts to 9:15 a.m., days would be longer, and it would be harder to relieve academic stress. 

“If we lose one of those, then we’re down to six. We have to try to jam all of the classes and class things within those six periods if we don’t add something on the end. But if we add another block on the end, say we had had a 4:45 p.m. to 5:50 p.m. block there, that might complicate things a bit for people,” said Dunham. “In my opinion, if there’s going to be a shift to move, we have to adjust the entire thing. It has to move by an hour or two. That means a longer day.”

Even if students are not currently enrolled in 8 a.m. classes, at some point in life, they will have to accommodate an early schedule because of work, post-graduate school, kids or responsibilities requiring them to wake up before 8 a.m.. Society has committed itself to an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. regular work schedule, so taking 8 a.m. classes now helps students adjust to future early schedules. 

“Part of the college also is functioning on a business day as well. The office is open at 8 a.m. and they close at 5 p.m.,” said Dunham.

The Cons of 8 a.m. Classes

There are many people who have a passion for waking up early. However, it is common among young people that waking up for an 8 a.m. class is not their favorite thing to do. And it turns out that early classes are not necessarily the most beneficial either. 

Most college students find themselves staying up later than normal due to studies, extracurriculars and more. If extra sleep isn’t accounted for to make up for staying up late, their chances of learning and retaining information decreases. 

According to research conducted by Harvard University’s, sleep is beneficial for learning and memory in two ways: It helps people focus their attention and it’s essential for learning new information.

“I notice my attention span, and my classmates’, is shorter compared to my later classes,” said Brandon Cortes, a junior from Chicago, Ill.

Cortes has 8 a.m. classes four days each week. Cortes also noted that he sees less students in attendance in his first class compared to later classes.

In order to combat lower attentiveness, students should go to sleep earlier, thus eliminating the downsides to 8 a.m. classes. But for the reasons listed above and more, students do not always find themselves getting to bed early enough.

“If we break this down to education, there’s been multiple studies done in high school, less so in the college level,” said Dunham. “If you look at that secondary education and the districts that have shifted just an hour, so they’re not starting about 7, 7:30, 7:45, they found that if you just shifted an hour later for those students, that the educational benefits go way up.” 

Other schools have made changes to their academic schedule and have found benefits, so there is evidence that it helps. The complex schedules of students and faculty, however, does create a difficult challenge if Albion wanted to make a similar change.

The Takeaway

There are a ripple of problems when it comes to 8 a.m. classes. Not only are students more likely to skip their early morning classes, but if they do make it to class, they are less likely to retain as much information as they would in a later class. 

There is a common distaste by a majority of students against 8 a.m. classes as well as evidence of their benefits. Considering both sides, students may not see a shift in the entire schedule change, but with the help of self registration, students can register for later classes if they are not morning people. If the class they want is only offered at 8 a.m., students can either sleep earlier or rely on caffeine.

About Ryan Lemanski 17 Articles
Ryan is a senior from West Bloomfield, Mi. He loves running around campus getting stories from students and exploring the nature center.

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