Professors equate class time and curriculum under semesters

Erin Ghere

Students are not the only ones affected by the change from quarters to semesters. Faculty members are worrying about the same issues students are: workloads, course depth and the daunting 15-week semester.
But while students walk into their classes ready for a long haul, professors worked hard during the last year to prepare courses for semesters.
To do so, professors had to have their classes approved by their colleges or by the University’s Council of Liberal Education by submitting a detailed explanation of the class, teaching methods and student assignments.
“Every course had to be revised and approved,” said Ann Waltner, associate dean of academic programming.
At least one entire department rebuilt its entire curriculum for the semester switch, said Robert Browne, a cultural studies and comparative literature professor.
“We discussed how cultural studies had changed in the past few years and how our curriculum could reflect those changes,” he said.
University professors wishing to have their courses fulfill requirements such as writing intensive courses or satisfy theme requirements had to submit additional written proposals to the council.
The number of classes offered at the University were cut by more than half because of the semester conversion, from 30,000 to 14,000. Many sequence courses were merged from three into two and other courses were discarded entirely.
One of the largest hurdles for students, staff and faculty members involved in the switch was the extended time span of courses. Faculty members were forced to re-evaluate how to best revise their courses.
In many situations, a five-credit quarter course would be converted to a four-credit semester course, adding about 10 hours of class time. Professors had to decide whether they would add material, depth or class work during these extra hours.
“Every professor is using the time a little differently,” Waltner said.
But in other situations, departments would ask that a five-credit quarter course be trimmed down to a three-credit semester course. Three-credit courses are the standard for semesters. In this case, about five hours of class time are lost. Professors teaching those courses had to cut material to fit it into the semester requirement.
Waltner said professors teaching four-credit quarter courses who wanted to keep their courses four-credit classes after the switch to semesters had to add a substantial amount of material to their courses.
Overall, the semester conversion was billed as “workload neutral” for both students and faculty, meaning total workload should not have been changed.
Under the semester system, faculty members are expected to teach four classes each year, about the same as under the quarter system.
Browne said that although more work hours might be necessary because classroom hours have increased, stress will decrease because courses will not go by so quickly.
Although the road to semesters has been long, many faculty members are optimistic.
Waltner said professors’ opportunities to create in-depth discussion sections and work on writing in the curriculum would be greatly increased with semesters.
“It takes four weeks for me to get the trust of the class, another two weeks to get busy on the material and then it’s over,” Browne said of quarters.
With the change to semesters, class depth and intimacy can increase, he said.

Erin Ghere covers University faculty and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3217.