U aims to up Friday course offerings via scheduling changes

Starting in fall 2012, classes will be offered evenly throughout the week.

by Conor Shine

Changes to class scheduling at the University of Minnesota aimed at increasing course access could also mean more Friday classes for students and complications in faculty schedules.
The Office of Classroom Management is working on a series of policy changes that would reduce the number of courses without assigned classrooms and push colleges to schedule classes more evenly throughout the week.
The new policy has been in the works since 2009 and is currently up for public review. Starting in fall 2012, the policy will remove peak scheduling restrictions.
University policy restricts the number of classes colleges can offer between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. âÄî the peak time for class. This creates an afternoon crunch that made finding suitable classrooms for every course more difficult, OCM Director Jeremy Todd said.
âÄúWhat weâÄôre looking to do is find a system that provided more flexibility,âÄù Todd said.
Finding rooms for the more than 8,000 courses scheduled each semester starts five months before registration begins.
But as students begin choosing their classes for next semester, theyâÄôre finding about 700 courses whose location is undetermined, causing confusion and headaches.
âÄúItâÄôs kind of frustrating,âÄù freshman Chris Le said of unplaced classes. âÄúI couldnâÄôt plan my schedule of where I was going to be and what buses IâÄôd be taking.âÄù
The new policy would also cap the number of classes a department can offer on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while introducing new 75-minute classes that meet twice weekly on a combination of Monday, Wednesday or Friday.
Inefficient scheduling sometimes means students are forced to choose between two classes they need that are scheduled at the same time. Todd said the goal is to increase student access to classes and get that course information like time and location to students as quickly as possible.
âÄúBecause we tend to see that demand all at one time, it means students are competing for classes,âÄù he said. âÄúWe hope to spread courses evenly so [students] are better able to graduate on time.âÄù
Global studies major Molly Gaeckle said she has often found that two classes she needs are offered at the same time, forcing her to make a choice and delay taking one.
âÄúWhen itâÄôs scheduled seems to be what makes my decision for classes,âÄù she said. âÄúIâÄôve not taken some classes which I thought sounded interesting because of when they were scheduled.âÄù
The new policy could make things more difficult for staff responsible for scheduling classes who must already balance faculty schedules with unique programming demands and the needs of students.
âÄúI think itâÄôs going to make things harder,âÄù said Jennifer Franko, who schedules courses for the Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning. âÄúBut the University has to do it because we donâÄôt have enough classrooms if everybody is teaching at the same time.âÄù
Franko said she works to schedule faculty so they have large blocks dedicated to teaching and large blocks for research. The policy could mean faculty switch between the two roles more often.
âÄúItâÄôs hard for them to teach for a while, go try to start writing a research paper and then go back and teach for a while,âÄù Franko said.
For students, a more even schedule distribution could mean more time spent in classes on Friday afternoons, Franko said.
âÄúThe culture of the University will need to change if they want us to schedule those classes on Friday afternoons,âÄù Franko said. âÄúStudents will do anything not to take them, and we lose too much money.âÄù