Block Plan Curiosities

When I talk to people about Quest, they are really curious about the block plan. How does it work? What’s your favorite part? What’s your least favorite part? Isn’t it stressful? 

View from one of the breakout rooms in the Quest academic building.
View from one of the breakout rooms in the Quest academic building.

The block plan is a foreign concept for most people—very few Universities are scheduled on the block plan, and most people come from high schools run on a traditional semester system. Because of this, the way the block plan works is a curiosity. I think the class I’m currently in—Chemistry 1—is highlighting the answers to a lot of those questions for me, both the good and the bad.

Typically, tutors say that one day of class on the block plan is equivalent to 1 week at a University on the semester system. My tutor this block, Bob Perkins, compares the amount we learn to a typical high school chem class. In our class, 1 hour is equivalent to about a week of high school chem. The block plan does put a large amount of information into three and a half weeks. And yes, it can be hard to keep all that information straight in your head. Classes at Quest build on themselves, so information learned or discussed or presented on is based on concepts learned earlier in the block. This means you have to stay on top of your game the whole time. You have to be willing to push when you are confused to make sure you understand the concepts in the class. As Bob tells us continuously this block, you have to muddle through the individual concepts to get the big picture. 

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Beppe (one of student ambassadors) was super stoked to get to hold my chem book.

Now for the best and the worst parts of the block plan (at least for me). I like not having to split my focus between five or six different subjects at once. This block, I don’t know how I’d be able to get as good of a grasp on the content if I couldn’t focus completely on chem. To have chemistry basically become my life. One of my classmates the other day said they had been dreaming about stoichiometry, woke up, and was able to figure out a question on our stoichiometry assignment that he had been confused about. Putting all your energy into the subject you’re studying allows you to make breakthroughs in your understanding and get so in depth into a course that you find something that intrigues you. 

Living and breathing a course, though, can get you stuck at certain points. This is what I find hardest about the block plan. If your brain is always on, always thinking, you can get overwhelmed. I have found over my last 2+ years at Quest—and especially in the intense, sometimes mind-numbing classes like chem—that you have to figure out something you can do every day to give yourself this break. Whether it is exercising or spending a few minutes outdoors or watching stupid movies with your friends, you have to give yourself and your brain a break. You have to learn when to keep pushing through to get to the brain-breakthrough that makes you understand and when to throw everything relating to your course out of your mind for a little while and just breathe.

Beppe super sad to know he will be done with calculus in a week.
Beppe super sad to know he will be done with calculus in a week.

Yes, the block plan can be stressful. The three and a half week length is both a curse and a blessing. It means there is a lot of information you have to learn in a short time period, and there is going to be a lot of work before you are done. The last week of block can be exhausting due to large final papers or a presentation you have to prepare, and you can definitely notice a lag in the energy level of the students on campus as you near the end of block. But because it is only three and a half weeks, you know you can push through it. You know you can put in the work, even if its exhausting, because you know there is an end. Sometimes the end of block comes with relief—relief at being done with a foundation you don’t love, relief to be able to sleep all block break, relief to get off campus and give your brain a break. But the end of block is often bitter sweet. There is sadness when you finish a class you love and wish you could keep going in that same subject. The beauty of Quest is that, with your Question, you can keep coming back to the content areas you love and leave those you were happy to be done with behind. 

The block plan is not for everyone. It certainly is not perfect and it comes with its drawbacks. But it also allows you to completely immerse yourself in a course, to throw yourself wholeheartedly into learning and come out on the other side with something amazing. 

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