For some students, an academic term can seem to drag on forever, with classes drawn out over a standard fifteen-week time period presenting more of a challenge to students who want to stay focus and learn the material. With classes only meeting one to three times a week, sometimes students find it difficult to retain and connect information presented in lectures, discussions, and labs throughout the semester to truly benefit as much as possible from the course.

An alternative to the traditional college course, the intensive course helps students to remedy that problem by offering an entire college course on a condensed time schedule. Intensive courses typically last nine to eleven weeks during the traditional academic year and two to four weeks during summer sessions, with classes meeting four to five times a week. Studies have shown that students respond better to intensive courses and tend to prefer them over traditional fifteen week semesters.

What Is an Intensive Course?

Why Take an Intensive Course?

Intensive courses have a number of benefits, but also have some drawbacks. Intensive classes allow students to complete the same amount of coursework and get the same level of instruction in a shorter amount of time, which is great for students who need to catch up on credit hours, retake a course over the summer, balance requirements for multiple majors or minors, or for students who are looking to graduate early.

Material presented in intensive courses is presented on a more frequent basis, allowing students to make connections among themes and concepts presented and to retain information better. Studies have also shown that students develop better relationships with faculty and staff during intensive courses than traditional course offerings.

For students who need more homework assignment help or time to review course concepts, intensive courses may not be a beneficial option. Material is presented at a rapid rate in intensive courses with less time for in-class review than traditional classes, so students who need extra class time may want to consider alternative options for courses.

Students with strict course schedules may also find scheduling intensive courses more difficult. Since these courses meet more frequently than traditional college courses, sessions may interfere with other classes students may need to take on certain days of the week, but do not interfere with others. A student may then have to choose between the intensive course or taking the course in a traditional format in order to schedule all of the classes a student needs for that term.

Study Shows that Students Prefer Intensive Courses

A study conducted by the University of Texas in 2017 found that students enrolled in intensive courses achieve the same learning outcomes in these classes as they do in traditional course settings.
Additionally, researchers found that students who had completed intensive courses rated the courses higher than traditional courses after experiment controls, such as class size, were put into place. Without the experiment’s controls in place, ratings for intensive courses and course instructors were significantly higher than ratings for traditional classes, says Inside Higher Ed.
While the study did not go into detail as to why ratings were in more favor of intensive classes, Inside Higher Ed says that one researcher observed, “there is more ‘bonding’ between professor and students than in regular courses. Even if the professor and students would have spent the same total amount of time over a semester, the shortened period builds relationships and adds to the closeness of the experience.”
Intensive courses allow students to take college classes on a shorter schedule for a variety of reasons. Additionally, researchers are beginning to find that students learn just as well in intensive courses versus traditional class schedules, but tend to prefer the condensed format.