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December 09, 2009 12:38 PM And Sleep When You’re Dead

By Daniel Luzer

Part of the appeal of online courses is that students can take them when they have free time. This is part of the appeal of for-profit colleges. “Your degree. On your terms,” is the slogan of the University of Phoenix; the school emphasizes that it has “course schedules that fit your life.”

Online schools generally do not offer much in the way of prestige, and they tend to be more expensive than local public options. The draw, however, is convenience. Students can hold down a full-time job while earning a diploma.

This means that, like midnight basketball and Night Court, students want to get things accomplished while other people sleep. Community colleges tried, but they were never all that good at offering really late courses. Well now, according to an article in Inside Higher Ed, this might be changing:

Midnight classes, once a quirky scheduling option available at only a few institutions, are gaining currency at a growing number of community colleges as student demand for specific courses increases and available classroom space for those courses decreases.
Though it is unclear which institutions pioneered the idea, Clackamas Community College, in Oregon, began offering what became known as “graveyard welding classes,” lasting from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., two nights a week last spring. The classes were so popular that the college expanded them to four nights a week this fall, and students can now take five different welding courses during the “graveyard shift,” ranging from an introductory section to those focusing on specialized projects.

The popularity of night classes among students does not necessarily carry over to instructors. One woman who teaches English at Boston’s Bunker Hill Community College explains that she does not sleep on the days she teaches the midnight class and just pretends it is morning and takes a shower before coming to work.

But just because students are willing to take late courses does not mean it is necessarily a good decision:

“Actually, I took this class by mistake,” said Hamid Mezhoud, 22…. “I misread the course catalog and thought it would start at 11:45 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m., not vice versa. But no other sections were available for it, and I needed to take this course this semester, so I decided to stay. I actually usually get off work at 11 p.m. [at a nearby full-service gas station] anyway, so it’s kind of worked out that I can go home and shower and just stay up until 3 a.m. and take the course. I’d probably be up anyway.”

No word on how students with jobs also manage to complete class work, let alone sleep.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer