Colorado College Block Plan

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Type: Policy

Status: Established in 1970

Source File:


Colorado College began a unique program in 1970 by adopting the Block Plan. The Plan divides the academic year into eight three-and-a-half week segments or blocks. Students take one principal course at a time and professors teach one. Some courses may last for one block, others for two or three blocks, depending on the nature of the material.


This schedule has many advantages. All courses are given equal importance, and students can give full attention to each course. Classes are kept small; the average size is 16 students, and almost all are limited to 25. Formal lectures are rare, and seminar discussions and active laboratories are the norm. The concentrated format and small classes are carefully designed with one vital educational principle in mind: at Colorado College the student is an active participant instead of a passive recipient in learning.

The Block Plan offers the advantage of flexibility. Each class is assigned a room, reserved exclusively for its faculty and students, who are free to set their own meeting times and to use the room for informal study or discussions after class. Since competing obligations are few, time can be structured in whatever way is best suited to the material. No bells ring. Nothing arbitrarily intrudes after 50 minutes to cut off discussion. An archaeology class can be held at the site of a dig in southeastern Colorado for one block, followed by a second block for laboratory analysis. A biology class might have a week of classroom orientation, then go to the field for two weeks. An English class can spend one morning reading a Shakespeare play out loud and the next morning discussing it or getting together with an acting class to try a few scenes.

Students may use a block to develop independent projects of their own which sometimes may be pursued off-campus. Such projects are often funded by the college's Venture Grants.

Although students compile their own programs and no two schedules are likely to be identical, most students spend several hours a day in class, usually in the morning, and then additional hours studying. Students should expect to spend several hours studying for every hour spent in class.

Courses taught under the Block Plan are designed to cover as much of a subject as a course in a conventional semester or quarter. One unit of credit is equal to four semester hours.

Advanced students or those who seek additional academic challenges may add semester or year-long extended format courses, often involving independent research. An additional academic opportunity is the half-block offered to students in January. Students may take afternoon adjunct courses in activities such as maintaining fluency in a foreign language, playing a musical instrument, or other subjects requiring application over an extended period of time.

The intensity of the Block Plan is complemented by the college's Leisure Program which offers students opportunities to participate in athletics, crafts, social action programs, musical and dramatic activities.

Each block ends at noon on the fourth Wednesday, giving students four-and-a-half day mini-vacations called "block breaks." Some students relax by staying on the campus; others participate in college-sponsored recreational activities such as bicycle trips to Aspen, raft expeditions down the Colorado River or volcano climbs in Mexico.