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Class times will shorten by five minutes next semester

February 5, 2007

For the 2007-08 academic school year, Monday, Wednesday and Friday class times will be reduced by five minutes, making each class period 50-minutes long. Tuesday and Thursday sessions will be only 75 minutes, instead of the current 85-minute length.

Faculty Senate approved a motion, which was investigated and written by the Calendar Committee by a vote of 16-3 on Dec. 20, 2006.

Chancellor Don Betz encouraged the change and said the five-minute reduction will have a positive affect on the education received by students attending UW-River Falls. 

The committee measured the “input and output” of students during class. The “input” included the amount of time students sit in seats during their class sessions, and the “output” consisted of the amount of education they achieved overall during a class period, Provost Charles Hurt said.

“Students now learn differently with lots of stuff coming at you,” he said about UWRF student’s learning abilities. “Now, there are a lot more ways to get information.”

With the five-minute change it will allow UWRF to be similar in class times to other institutions in the state and nationally, Hurt said.

“There was a lot to be concerned with, like measuring the quality of education, the face-to-face value,” said Karl Peterson, chair of the Calendar Committee and chemistry professor. “Like River Falls, we value that more than other institutions do; it’s part of the feel we have at this school.”

The chancellor and vice chancellor promptly instructed the Registrar’s office to implement the new times as soon as they could get all the necessary changes done, Dan Vande Yacht in the registrar office said.

The office is responsible for compiling all the class schedules, which are available on eSIS for students at the time of registration for the next semester.

“We wanted to make the 50-minute class period as soon as we could,” he said. “It was a little added work load, but we did it.”

Vande Yacht said the amount of time to change the foundations within the tables in databases available to him and his staff took less than a month. These tables allow a quick and easy system to take the numerous classes offered a certain semester and place them in a timely order.

When the Calendar Committee explored the idea of having 50-minute Monday, Wednesday and Friday classes, many positive and negative aspects were discussed in length by the committee and senate. Some of those aspects included the decrease in time of the in-class instructional time, students and faculty will have shorter class periods and work days, and an increase in the use of technological and alternative strategies, like Desire2Learn (D2L) and field experience.

“As chair of the committee, the process we used followed the process of shared governance-the campus community was asked to give input, including the students,” Peterson said. “For some people it (the change) was not an issue; we simply summed up the feedback.”

The institutions in the UW-System have a range of 4,300 to 4,680 minutes of classroom instruction time per year, Peterson said. This accounts for a typical three-credit Monday, Wednesday and Friday course over an entire academic year. For the 2006-07 academic year, UWRF holds 4,620 minutes of in-class instructional time for a three-credit course on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

“Now, we need to be at the top of the quality list,” Hurt said. “We need our students to go out and do great things, whether in the work force or in graduate school.”

When students experience the 50-minute classes, UWRF’s ranking will drop to the lowest with instructional minutes at 4,200, Peterson said, representing a loss of almost four 55-minute class periods per semester in comparison to the current schedule.

“We may be the lowest, but that’s the wrong way to measure this,” Hurt said. “We are looking at the minutes in the wrong way. I don’t care if we are at the bottom; I care if we are giving the quality education that students deserve.”

Peterson said face-time value with a professor is not essential for a student’s academic outcome because every student has a different learning ability.
“Everyone is going to have to adjust,” he said.

With adjusting the change, class times will begin on the hour for Monday, Wednesday, Friday classes, or half hour for Tuesday and Thursday sessions, allowing an easier schedule for students and faculty to schedule their meetings and other activities in their day, Peterson said.

Classes falling in the afternoon, like 2 p.m. and later, may be more appealing to students, he said.

“Ask any professor at this University and they will tell you how hard it is to find a classroom around 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.,” Peterson said. “It is pretty impossible, but later in the afternoon more classrooms are empty because students don’t like taking later classes.”

Night classes could start at 5 p.m. instead of 5:45 p.m. because the last session on Monday, Wednesday and Friday classes ends at 5:35 p.m., he said, possibly making those classes much more appealing to students and faculty.

Faculty Senate Chair Wes Chapin said he was concerned with losing that five minutes of educational time. Even though faculty and students will be gaining those precious five minutes somewhere else outside of the classroom, it doesn’t quite fix all the time problems everyone has at UWRF.

“It’s five minutes here and five minutes there,” Chapin said. “It all adds up.”

With tuition increasing and students working more because of decreasing student aid, most students will think of the less time in class as more time to work, he said, which should not be viewed as negative.
Faculty’s amount of time outside of class decreases every year with budget cuts and an increasing student body, Chapin said.

“More students in a classroom mean more time for advising,” he said. “Students should be thinking about the time it will take to grade papers, tests and respond to e-mails.”

The reduction in class time to 50 minutes is not a fix to any major problem on campus, but a start, Chapin said.

The five-minute decrease in class will only cut things out of a class, he said, like a chapter in a textbook, a required paper, quiz or tests.

“It will be interesting to see what students will have to say,” Chapin said. “With the gaining of time, will it impact the overall quality of their experience?”