Class length in Japan, and the struggle of attention span

The length of college courses in Japan last nearly an hour longer than the average class length in America. American college courses are typically 50-90 minutes in length. On average a college course length in Japan is from one and a half to two and a half hours long.

The Center for International Studies at Nanzan University adheres to this same principle for all the international students who have separate courses than the main campus. Many of the courses last two hours and some almost reaching two and a half.

All students in the Japanese language program must take one of the intensive language classes that meet Monday through Friday from 9:20 a.m. to 11:05 a.m. On top of that there is a writing class directly following it on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, that adds another hour to the language course.

Although the lecture classes only meet once a week, there is still some preference for shorter more spread out periods.

“The classes are too long. It was scientifically proven that people lose attention span after fifty minutes.” International Studies major, Chris Mclurg said

Rina Okada, a Japanese teacher at the University of Southern Indiana, transferred to America within this last year. Okada remembers courses in Japan being long and many of her classmates not paying attention. Her English course was four hours long and met three times a week. Okada recalls even the American professor getting tired and very little class participation.

“It is more efficient to study with strong concentration for a short time than a long time at a low level,” Okada said.

“Classes are too long, and I would prefer to have classes divided into fifty minute lengths and multiple classes per week.” computer science major, Asir Saeed said. Saeed is currently studying in Japan.

Japan, however, is not the only place with long class periods. Dario Fernandez, a computer science major from Mexico, has adjusted easily to the class length,

“It’s still shorter than some classes in Mexico. Some of my classes there are two to three hours, and once I had a teacher that required us to meet on Saturday for four hours.”

According to a journal by the Teaching Center, Students have undergone many studies over attention span that once concluded attention span lasts about 10-15 minutes. The article then discusses that in recent studies it shows that students have frequent lapses in attention that are very brief and last only between 1-2 minutes. The researchers concluded that in order to have the best results from learning there needs to be a high rate of attention span. In order to accomplish this, they believe that active learning was a valuable tool in achieving this.

Active learning is simply the process of getting students involved with the learning process through activities and discussion. If this evidence is correct then it would go to show that hours of just lecture courses are an ineffective tool for learning.

David Cornish, M.D. and Dianne Dukette, Ph.D., published a book called the essential 20. Within that book, they performed a commonly referenced study now that showed the average attention span of people is 20 minutes and within the first eight seconds, a person will decide if they want to tune in or tune out.

With the ever expanding world of technology and the internet, people are seeking more quickly and easily digested information. Millions of people scour the internet and YouTube in a hunt for exciting entertainment and information. With so much out there it relies heavily on an appealing picture or catchy headline to slow down the frantic clicking and sifting through virtual pages.

A study was released that showed on average, people spend only 15 seconds on an internet page. This trend is seeping into the news as well. Many schools of journalism are teaching about maximizing most important information first and branching out into graphic design to create interesting looking ways to show otherwise boring information. It is about the most amount of information a person can fit in the least amount of time.

The world is moving faster and things need to move faster with it. So with the growing popularity of quick information and immediate access, how much of that mentality finds its way into academic life?

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