Thursday, April 20, 2017
- Any change has to be academically sound. Reducing quality or integrity is a non-starter.
- It can’t rely on a massive infusion of new money.
- It has to be consistent with the social justice mission. We could easily improve our graduation rates simply by focusing recruitment only on areas with high incomes. But that would defeat the reason the college exists.
- It has to work at scale. For a college of about 13,000 students, a program that reaches 50 people may be great for those 50, but it won’t reach enough to save us.
Going in the opposite direction, squeezing the course into half as much time, would make the course very difficult for students or instructors to handle. (The students in the current version of the course have 7 hours a week in lecture and lab and the previous, compressed version had 10.5 hours a week in lecture and lab.)
One place where we are saving money is by hiring new faculty. They make a fraction of what the new-retiree was making, and are unlikely to see many pay raises for awhile. They also bring energy and innovative ideas that focus on student success without just handing out "C" grades like they do to increase pass rates in K-12. You can save money, and restructure your faculty to reflect student interests, by paying a "retire now" bonus out of the difference between the two salaries.
I liked your idea on split semesters when you first raised it, but it has to be flexible to deal with classes like the one I teach or the one GSwoP teaches. No one wants to to two labs and lab reports in one week so that physics or chemistry can be done in half the time. But you could cut bigger courses, like lab sciences, in half and run other classes at double speed. Do some experiments and find out what works for each part of the curriculum. I can see arguments each way.
Would it be better for overall success rates if the (large fraction) who are going to fail calculus got it over with in the first half of the course, in only 8 weeks? That is possible, even likely. Starting the second half of the first semester with a full room of students who mastered the first half semester would be a much more positive environment than what you often see at this point in the spring.
The only risk I see is transfer of 1/4 of a calculus class. Best to err on the side of maintaining the current structure, and just compress it in time. That said, I think three 10-week terms are significantly better than two 15-week semesters. Four 7.5-week terms could play out the same way.
As you know, I am less sanquine about competency-based credits being a cost saver. I know what a time suck it is when I get asked to evaluate a transfer class, and there I have a detailed syllabus and a catalog description. Credit for prior knowledge would require evaluation by your very best people, ones who probably have better ways of spending their time. So you should ask your faculty. It is a simple question: How can you, as an individual, get 2xN students through college algebra or English composition instead of the N they teach now? It could be that the actual passing (success) numbers would go up with slightly smaller classes in a compressed format. After all, you aren't trying to teach 200 kids in an English comp lecture hall, you are trying to get higher success rates with a declining enrollment.
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