Academic scheduling task force suggests changes

While Spring 2017 class registration will begin Oct. 31, many eyes are on recommendations from the new Task Force on Classroom and Academic Scheduling report — even though they will not go into effect until the Fall 2017 semester.

The report addresses concerns of both students and faculty members  and makes a few drastic changes to class structure and times in order to make scheduling more effective.

The Office of the Provost and the task force, which included faculty from all six colleges, students and administrators, recently released its final report, includes five changes in the academic calendar and class scheduling. These changes aim to address the concerns of both students and faculty members and to make the scheduling process better accommodate the Institute’s quickly growing student population.

Because Tech is growing, there is a resulting lack of space in classes. Therefore, many students are not able to get courses they want and need, causing several scheduling conflicts to arise. The changes implemented by the task force are attempts to address these conflicts and find a compromise between students’ desired schedules and the availability of classes.

“The campus culture around scheduling must shift to a common good,” said Joe Hughes, Professor of ECE and co-chair of the Task Force, at a Town Hall event on Oct. 25.

The main goal of the task force was to make adjustments to the daily class schedule in the attempt to make day-to-day life more efficient and manageable for
all students.

Perhaps the biggest adjustment in schedules comes from the shift from 10-minute gaps between classes to 15-minute pass times for students to get to class.

“Campus has become much larger,” Hughes said. “It is nearly impossible for a student to get from the College of Business to the Instructional Center in 10 minutes.”

Tuesday and Thursday classes will be cut from 80 minutes to 75, in order to accommodate for the 15-minute breaks and still meet the University System of Georgia’s scheduling requirements.

There will also be a Friday Flexible Block, beginning at 3 p.m., which will allow for several innovative uses such as off-campus courses, department seminars and social events.

Dr. Steven Girardot, associate vice provost for undergraduate education, pointed out the creation of an additional break between Monday, Wednesday and Friday classes at 1:10 p.m. in order to accommodate different schedules and students’ needs.

“We did build in something that students had expressed interest in, which is a 45-minute open period on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays, which is essentially a late lunch hour,” Girardot said. “I think it will be nice for the campus to have this break.”

Overall, the schedules beginning in Fall 2017 will adhere to a far stricter scheduling grid than they already do; or, in other words, there will be a more rigid enforcement of when professors and faculty can schedule classes.

To move towards the “common good,” as the task force aims to do, faculty members must make certain sacrifices in order to allow for scheduling to run smoothly.

Professors will not be able to enjoy the same flexibility they are used to in planning their classes and class times. Now, they will have to submit a request to move their designated class time and wait for it to be approved by the Instructional and Class Scheduling Subcommittee.

“It’s going to require a little bit of planning ahead, but there is a process for requesting exceptions,” Hughes said. “[For example], If somebody has an opportunity to create a class that has a direct satellite link with researchers in Antarctica, and because of satellite availability the only way to do that is to have the class on Wednesday from 12–3 p.m., I’m still in favor of doing that. For that group of students, the benefit of being able to participate in that class outweighs the possibility that there’s some elective they will not be able to take. So there are exceptions.”

In addition to the daily scheduling grid introduced, other scheduling practices were included in the report. Upon the request of several students,  Anchor Courses, which are courses with a fixed time and room assignment to be carried out over several terms, are to be implemented. This will allow students to plan their schedules around critical courses for up to two years in advance.

With these long-term schedules comes the need for more effective technology.

A goal of the task force is to enhance existing tools, such as DegreeWorks and Banner, to accommodate for the longevity of schedules and give students the opportunity to utilize campus resources and plan ahead.