How do I hack scheduling classes when I work all day?
November 18, 2013 10:17 PM   Subscribe

I'm a science teacher who is trying to take prerequisite courses in order to eventually apply for a graduate physics degree. The problem is as a teacher I work a set schedule everyday, and the pre-requisite classes I want are designed for the first-time college goer who is attending school full-time or has a part-time job at night. How do I get the classes I need?

So I've already started taking physics classes at the community college, and I'm having a blast. I signed up for a night physics course because I thought it was the only course offered at that school, but it turns out to be the physics for health majors or something. I can remedy that apparently by taking a supplementary course, but I do want to take the physics for engineers and scientists, however they're only scheduled right in the middle of the day while I'm teaching.

Because of the heavy lab segments that would be involved in such a class, taking it online is not very feasible. They also don't seem to offer the class during the summer.

I've looked at the nearby state college, and they don't even offer it during the summer or at night!

There is an entire course tree that I would love to take but again, they're all only offered during the day. This problem will arise again once I begin taking the upper-level physics courses.

I am fine with taking classes part time, and I do need to prioritize my career, but I don't want to settle for just letting this dream go. I will eventually take a few years off to complete the graduate degree but being as I already attended college to receive my B.S., I feel like it would be such a waste to leave my career (even if it's just a break) to complete just the pre-requisites.

Is there any way to hack the schedule or some tips or tricks to getting the classes I need but completing them in the time that I have?

Bonus: Would a physics department look poorly on a student who simply took the health physics courses with the calculus supplements instead of the engineering physics courses? (The health courses seem to be well scheduled at night.)
posted by Peregrin5 to Education (16 answers total)
You can take correspondence course or online courses, and not just from local community colleges but from all over. I took classes from five colleges once to get my prereqs done. There's also University of Phoenix.
posted by powerbumpkin at 10:30 PM on November 18, 2013

(Some online courses have like a week long all day part that requires in-person appearance but the rest can be done online)
posted by powerbumpkin at 10:33 PM on November 18, 2013

What's your location?
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:54 PM on November 18, 2013

See what's available through the state system because usually a lot of state classes will go back and forth between schools and it'll be fine. For example the university I plan to transfer to eventually has a bunch of agreements with the rest of the state universities and CCs, so if you take "Physics" at Bumfuck Community College's Online program, it will transfer to State U. fine.

Alternately, go down to/email Advisement and say "What do?" because it's literally their job to help you figure this stuff out.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:56 PM on November 18, 2013

It's not a matter of "looking down" on students like you, it's a matter of the night class in physics for non-majors just being crappy preparation for further coursework in physics. You are trying to cobble together credits that were never meant to be taken piecemeal in your spare time. The health coursework is. This is why it's offered at odd hours: it's directed at working adults who are making progress toward their associate's degree in nursing or whatever. You, right now, are not the student that the physics coursework is designed for. For the sake of comparison, I took a lot of upper undergraduate courses in math because I worked for the university and could also sneak off from work for a couple of hours in the middle of the day to attend class. It still was very hard, and my preparation is still substandard compared to an actual undergraduate math major. I didn't get the offers I wanted when I applied to grad programs. Take caution and be realistic.
posted by Nomyte at 11:29 PM on November 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

If you can afford it, you could spend the summer somewhere else where they do offer the classes you need.
posted by egg drop at 12:46 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are online physics classes with labs from more legitimate universities than Phoenix. It's going to take some googling to find them. Here's one.
posted by mareli at 5:37 AM on November 19, 2013

I'm in exactly the same position and I have travel requirements for my job. For a biology prereq I found an online option through this. You have to search courses by individual schools or distance from your primary school and it doesn't cover all states.

I found this too.

I think there is another site like this but I can't find it.

I'm still stuck finding my lab course.

Good luck.
posted by Che boludo! at 6:00 AM on November 19, 2013

Response by poster: Sebastien: My location is the Bay Area California.

Nomtye: What makes a night class different from a day class? The classes I'm attempting to get anyway are a succession, so they can't be taken simultaneously. Why would taking it at night be "cobbling it together" as opposed to taking it in the day when its "proper preparation"?

The hours seem to be the same for each. One just happens to be in the evening, and the others happen to be in the day time.

I understand my offers will probably be limited due to my background. I'm fine with that. I simply can't take off two years to chase after university courses and paying university prices. I want to get as much done as I can at the community college.
posted by Peregrin5 at 6:37 AM on November 19, 2013

>Why would taking it at night be "cobbling it together"

You had mentioned they were physics for clinician classes, which are often structured differently, with different material, than "physics for physical science majors" classes. A lot of physicists will not look seriously at physics classes that don't require calculus, for example, and getting rid of that requirement is more common for a "health physics" class.

If you've had a prof whose opinion you trust, I'd talk to them about this. I'm in academia, though not as a prof. For the right student I can very easily imagine doing things like recording lectures and labs, meeting with you at times when schedules do overlap, letting you borrow lab materials to set things up at home, etc, while keeping the expectations for coursework at the same level for you as for the students attending the classes. Particularly at the community college level where teaching and not research is supposed to be the focus. You'd definitely need to demonstrate in advance your level of commitment, though.

And talk to the head of the department about offering summer classes. If they know there's a real need there they may be more able to pull the appropriate strings. I'm actually really surprised that they're not being offered, because it's pretty common for folks to need to retake physics classes, and they often do in the summer.

Lastly, I'd give a lot of thought to taking a one-semester leave of absence somewhere along the way and cramming in as much heavy math and science as possible into that one semester. It may not be possible, but if you could save up for it and get everything planned for 2 years down the road it could put a huge dent in your goal. Again, I'd talk to some people in the department first.

And a slightly sidewise answer to your question: Astro classes are often held later at night. Research with a prof can be done at any time as long as you're able to meet occasionally, and looks very good on grad school applications.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:54 AM on November 19, 2013

Response by poster: @Nomyte: Sorry I just woke up and my head's a bit foggy so I misunderstood the gist of your post.

I understand I'm not the student the physics coursework is designed for. Thanks for answering my question about the health physics.

I don't think anyone is looking down on me. I just think that it's exactly as you said. It's designed for the first-time college goer and not continuing ed students. Regardless I'm still looking for a way to remedy this.

As a general question to all: is there a way to tell if online courses will be transferrable? For instance this online version of Quantum Mechanics:

Also I've been reading around and a lot of colleges don't want your major classes to be taken as online courses. Will this seriously affect me?
posted by Peregrin5 at 6:56 AM on November 19, 2013

Response by poster: @tchemgrrl: Thanks! I just realized that's what Nomyte meant. Got confused. The class I'm taking now does have a calculus supplement that I will be taking next semester, but I can understand what you mean about it not being taken seriously anyway.

The professor I'm working with now is doing teaching as a whim right now, so I think he realized that he doesn't like it and is not going to be back next semester. He works as a researcher at LLNL though.

He knows my level of commitment, since I'm currently the top ranked in the class. (although again this is for a health physics course, so I don't know if that means anything)

I am thinking about asking him to allow me to do research under him as a teacher researcher (they have funding for that at LLNL) during the summer.

They have the health physics being offered during the summer but none of the engineering physics courses. It's a bummer!

Thanks for your response!
posted by Peregrin5 at 7:04 AM on November 19, 2013

Best answer: Hi, I'm a community college professor. Go see someone in the physics department, preferably the department chair, or the actual professor for the course you're interested in, and explain your situation. It's possible they can set you up with an independent study, or allow you to register for the day class, but actually come in to do the work in the evenings or weekends.

The buzzwords in community college circles - at least at mine - these days are "retention" and "graduation rates". My college/department is willing to bend over backwards to help committed students get those elusive credits.

It never ever hurts to ask if alternate arrangements can be made.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:54 AM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

in re: the teacher researcher position, it sounds like a good fit and Livermore is a great place to have on your CV. Ask soon; those things usually have applications, and the applications are usually due in Jan. or Feb.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:55 AM on November 19, 2013

You may want to consider doing distance education with Open University in the UK. And fly out during the summer to stay at the residences and do the laboratory portions of the courses.
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:49 PM on November 19, 2013

There are online physics classes with labs from more legitimate universities than Phoenix. It's going to take some googling to find them. Here's one.

You'll have to dig to find the ones that include 3rd year and 4th year labs. Try asking in a generic physics forum or that degree discussion forum I linked to.

Don't forget to talk to the physics profs who are on the graduate student admitting committee at your target grad schools about what they're looking for.

And talk to the head of the department about offering summer classes. If they know there's a real need there they may be more able to pull the appropriate strings. I'm actually really surprised that they're not being offered, because it's pretty common for folks to need to retake physics classes, and they often do in the summer.

Most generic institutions don't have the resources or enough needy students to offer advanced labs during the summer.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:20 PM on November 19, 2013

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