Project findings by year
Consultations were conducted via boothing to gather feedback from students after the final Fall Break of the three year pilot. A summary of the feedback from students is included below.
Campus expectations around Fall Break
The majority of consulted students indicated that there are two main expectations of them for the break:
- Catching up on academic responsibilities (e.g., coursework and assignments).
- Taking time for personal wellness (e.g., relaxation, mental and physical wellbeing).
Ultimately, they felt that the decision on how to use the break is up to each individual student.
Programming before, during, and after Fall Break
- According to 37% of students, wellness related services should be prioritized for promotion around the break.
- Academic and professional development workshops or events were recommended for promotion by 26% of students. Particularly, tutoring sessions, Teaching Assistant (TA) office hours, and other academic help sessions.
- Other recommendations for services to promote included social events, library related resources, physical fitness services, and food services.
Communications around the Break
Most students found the communicated expectations and purpose of Fall Break was clear and concise.
- 41% of students recommended communicating the importance of incorporating relaxation, mental and physical wellbeing.
- 32% of students felt communications should encourage students to catch up on both academic and social activities.
- Other suggested topics for communication included time management strategies and reminders around the purpose of Fall Break
Who should be communicating about Fall Break?
- Students felt that course instructors should be the primary communicators about the break. They suggested course syllabi content and PowerPoint slides in class (a week before the break) as preferred communication methods.
- Other suggested communication methods included email reminders, LEARN, Piazza, flyers, web page announcements, and social media channels.
Additionally, students recommended that material to help them prepare for midterms or future evaluations could be provided by their instructors before the break.
A new pilot project and task force was established at the conclusion of the Fall Break pilot. For three years beginning in 2019 A Fall Reading Week will be piloted. There will be consultation and evaluation throughout the pilot, with the results influencing long term decisions about a Fall Reading Week.
Feedback on the second year of the Fall Break was obtained through student consultation groups, one-to-one student interviews and a feedback form. Summarized below are the findings from year two of the pilot project.
Perceived purpose of the Fall Break
Students viewed the break as a time to get organized, catch up on work and enjoy a bit of relaxation:
- Many students identified we should refine our definition of the break
- Graduate students felt that break is tailored to undergraduates
Length of the Fall Break
Students expressed an interest in extending the break to a full week.
If the break were to be made longer, students were willing to trade-off the number of Orientation days available to them, or when Orientation Week begins.
Students were split on the timing of the break (right after Thanksgiving or later in October)
Next steps in the evaluation process
Our continuing measurement will aim to learn more about the timing, length and purpose of the Fall Break through ongoing student consultations and one-to-one interviews, as well as collecting feedback from staff and faculty. We will also begin to investigate potential "trade off" dates in response to the feedback requesting a longer Fall Break.
We gathered feedback from the campus about the Fall Break through an online survey, student consultation groups and a web feedback form. The initial findings from year one of the pilot are summarized below.
Student time use during and after the break
The majority of students did school work during the Break and came back for classes:
- 40% of undergraduate students and 73% of graduate students were on campus during the Fall Break study days.
- 37% of undergraduate students and 57% of graduate students accessed at least one campus resource during the Fall Break study days.
- Students said they did school work during the Break. Other time was used for relaxing, family time, running errands, spending time with friends (undergrad), working on a thesis (graduate).
- 75% of undergraduate students and 86% of graduate students indicate they attended all of their scheduled classes on Thursday and Friday following the Break.
- Students suggested that more emphasis be placed on relaxing and less focus on assignments and schoolwork.
Promoting individual student success
Students found the break useful for reducing stress, catching up on sleep, and feeling rested for the remainder of the term.
- Most students reported a moderate to high stress level before the Fall Break.
- Undergraduate students found the Break to be more useful than graduate students for reducing stress, catching up on sleep, and feeling rested/rejuvenated.
- Graduate students reported not feeling supported in taking a break.
- Teaching Assistants (TAs) reported they were not able to take a break from their duties.
- When asked for suggestions, many students suggested that Fall Break should be for all students, including graduate students.
- Many students commented that the change in schedules was confusing.
Overall precieved value
Overall, the Fall Break was perceived by undergraduate students as extremely helpful for supporting mental and physical well-being.
- Students think the Break was beneficial but more helpful in supporting their physical and mental well-being than academic success.
- Many students commented they would value more time or a full week off.
- In regards to timing the of the Break, students recommended moving the Break so it is not during midterms or other intense times because it increased the intensity of the time leading up to and after the Break.
- Some students commented that they didn't notice a change during the Break and continued as usual in their work/studies.
- When asked about the value of Fall Break in the web form, the majority (52%) provided a positive comment.
Next steps in evaluation
Year two and three of measurement will aim to answer the question "What does a good break look like?" (e.g. time to relax, flexibility in choices, access to resources, etc.). We will also begin to investigate how we are doing at facilitating the conditions of a "good" break.
Documents and links
To request access to the survey and feedback data, use the Fall Break Data Request form.