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U NIVERSITY OF M INNESOTA Notes On Semester Conversion Peter Zetterberg Senior Analyst, Office of Planning and Analysis Director, Semester Conversion Project:

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Presentation on theme: "U NIVERSITY OF M INNESOTA Notes On Semester Conversion Peter Zetterberg Senior Analyst, Office of Planning and Analysis Director, Semester Conversion Project:"— Presentation transcript:

1 U NIVERSITY OF M INNESOTA Notes On Semester Conversion Peter Zetterberg Senior Analyst, Office of Planning and Analysis Director, Semester Conversion Project:

2 Was It Worth It? Ten years later everything is just fine—and much less hectic. Enrollment is at an all-time high. The 4-year graduation is double what it was. The faculty and staff are just as productive as ever. Many other things have changed, and it is never possible to say with certainty what role the calendar change had in any particular improvement—if any. All of the students are new and have no idea what a quarter-based calendar is. 60 percent of the staff and 40 percent of the faculty are also new.

3 A Semester Calendar Is Less Flexible In the debate leading up to the decision to change calendars you undoubtedly heard students and faculty complain that a semester calendar would be much less flexible. “I won’t be able to take as many courses or courses in different areas.” “I won’t be able to take a reduced load in the spring so I can work more.” “I’ll have to teach every semester rather than arranging a quarter off.” All of this is absolutely true. Students will have less flexibility and less margin for error. You can recover from a bad quarter, but it is much more difficult to recover from a bad semester. Choosing a major by the end of the sophomore year is even more important than on quarters. Most faculty will not actually teach more or have less time for research and scholarship, but things will definitely be different—not better or worse, just different.

4 This Project Has A Deadline Semester Conversion is a large project, but it is also very doable. Unlike some of the projects that universities undertake, this project has: a very clear objective a long, but well-defined list of what needs to be done, and a very firm deadline There is no part of semester conversion that is something entirely new. For every task there is someone on every campus who already knows how to do it. The most important part of managing a project like this is clearly defining roles and responsibilities.

5 U of M Semester Conversion Project Part 1: Mobilization, Organization, And Base Information Part 2: Timelines, Standards, And Objectives Part 3: Academic Program Conversion Part 4: Student Information And Advising Part 5: Student 2000 Project (PeopleSoft) Part 6: Everything Else That Needs To Be Done

6 Human Nature And The Credit Load Problem It is inevitable that student credit loads will drop with the change in calendars. This always happens, and you need to fight to minimize the drop. The problem is not poor planning or advising. It is human nature. It is very hard to convince students accustomed to taking 3 or 4 courses per term that they must now take 4 or 5. Habits are hard to break.

7 Human Nature And The Credit Load Problem

8 The Classroom Jigsaw Puzzle Whether or not there will be a classroom problem all depends on how efficiently classrooms are utilized. There are the same number of students taking the same number of credit hours (at best), which will require the same number of classroom hours per week, so there cannot be a classroom problem. Right? Wrong. There are more classes and course sections, so there must be a classroom problem. Right? Wrong. There are more classes and course sections, but most require fewer scheduled classroom hours. It is a difficult puzzle to solve. It is the same sized puzzle, but all of the pieces are smaller and there are more of them. Scheduling the first fall and spring semesters will be a real challenge for any campus. It will also be the first time you have done a schedule from scratch.

9 Part-time Students Part-time students and programs with part-time students will be affected. This is not a priority for most campuses, but it is something to watch. The price for a course will be 50% more. The time commitment for a course will be 50% more. For part-time students who take the same number of courses every term, this should not matter. But for some students (e.g., less committed students) it may matter a lot. There is no doubt that some programs in our College of Continuing Education took a rather major hit and never really fully recovered.

10 Grunt Work: Search and Replace As you all know by now, changing academic calendars is much more grunt work than rocket science. Scrubbing all of you paperwork (e.g., policies, contracts, etc.) for the word “quarter” and changing it to “semester” is trivial in most cases, but difficult in some (e.g., student probation, faculty single quarter leave and tenure policies), but it must be done by everyone. Even non-academic units have contracts with vendors that are quarter-calendar- based.

11 Be A Good Neighbor The calendar change will affect not just your own students, faculty, and staff. It will also affect the community in which your campus is located. Traffic flows will be different at different times of the year. Parking problems will be different at different times of the year. Police and public safety officials need to be informed about this. Area merchants also deserve to know that this change will affect them, providing more business in August and September than in the past and less business in May and June than in the past. They need to be informed about this. It is just a common courtesy.

12 The First Semester Is Not The End The first semester will obviously be a major accomplishment and milestone, but it will not be the end. The credit load problem will linger until all of the students caught in the transition are gone. The advising for new students needs to be different than the advising for continuing students. It is extremely important that students who begin on the semester calendar make key decisions earlier (e.g., choice of major). Some faculty will discover too late that stretching a 10-week course out over 15 weeks just does not work. The first semester will be extremely loooooooooong. Keep your semester transition resources together throughout the first year.


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