Web site aids new curricula change

by Jennifer Niemela

Although the University won’t convert to semesters until fall quarter 1999, academic departments are already beginning to prepare for the switch by changing classes and curricula.
To help coordinate the changes in departments ranging from accounting to youth studies, the Office of Planning and Analysis has established a World Wide Web site on which new course plans can be circulated.
Departments must have access to the changes proposed by other departments during the process, because many courses have prerequisites from other programs, administrators said. For example, since most engineering courses require mathematics as a prerequisite, engineering departments need access to the changes being made in math courses to plan their courses accurately.
Departments must submit six status reports this year before the Oct. 31 deadline for final class curriculum proposals.
College of Liberal Arts curriculum coordinator Tom Cook said a decrease in paperwork is another advantage to the Web site. “Since everyone has the software capability to access the Web, it doesn’t make sense to create a mountain of paper” during the conversion process.
Departments in the College of Liberal Arts and the Institute of Technology are operating autonomously from one another during the curriculum changeover process, and both are at different stages.
Thomas Jones, chairman of the Department of Astronomy, said his department is almost finished converting its class syllabuses.
“Because we have a smaller department, it’s easier to deal with all the classes,” he said.
The astronomy department formed two faculty/student committees last spring and fall to help in the restructuring process. Jones said the conversion is an opportunity to improve class content.
“We wanted to figure out what worked well and what we could do better,” he said. “We want to make sure those students who only take one physical science get a chance to see how science really works.”
Cook said individual departments in CLA are taking the responsibility of changing class curriculum. IT departments are operating the same way.
“Each department has to decide how they want to restructure their classes,” he said. “(New curricula) depend on the best judgements of the faculty members. No one better understands each department than the faculty members in that department.”
Carlson School of Management is taking a more centralized approach to the conversion process. Mary Nichols, associate dean of programs, said the school isn’t completely revamping its curriculum.
“We’re taking a school-wide approach,” she said. “We revised our undergraduate program a few years ago, so we’re not doing a complete overhaul. We’re just trying to tune the classes up.”
Nichols said working on the logistics of the switch, as well as class content, has made the process more complicated than they’d anticipated.
Nichols said the school hasn’t begun to use the Web site, which was constructed last May, to publish their proposed changes.
“We’re looking to see what other units will do,” she said.