Schedule of classes to get big makeover

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CSUN academics will operate within an annual schedule of classes that will be accessible only through the Internet beginning with the Summer and Fall 2006 and Spring 2007 terms, according to university officials.

“(We want) to give students a chance to look at the longest possible arch,” said Jerry Luedders, assistant provost, who along with Eric Forbes, director of Admissions and Records, announced the schedule change at a recent Provost Council meeting.

Luedders said online technology is more dynamic than the paper version, as any changes to a class can be obtained immediately and accurately through CSUN’s websites.

“Annual schedule of classes is the next development of online scheduling,” Forbes said, adding that students will able to see more than one term at a time online.

During the middle of the Spring 2006 semester, students will be able to see the schedule of classes for the Summer and Fall 2006 semesters, he said.

Luedders said the university looks to accomplish two objectives with the change: The first is to allow students, faculty and advisers to look at accurate information when planning schedules.

The second is to allow students to have more time to plan out their academic future at CSUN as they move toward graduation.

“Most departments already plan one to two years in advance, especially for upper-division courses,” Luedders said.

To achieve the first objective, the printed schedule of classes, which is sold at the Matador Bookstore on campus, will end publication with the Spring 2006 semester. At the start of Summer 2006, all class schedules will be available online only.

“The furthest term (Spring 2007) is least developed,” Forbes said. “At least 80 percent of that distant term is available to students.”

This is the case because department chairs will not have all that projected information one year early, according to Forbes.

The information that will be available only in printed form is the Enrollment Guide, a 12 to 16-page manual that will allow freshmen to become familiar with rules and regulations regarding enrollment procedures. Policies and information regarding financial aid, lab fees, and adding or dropping classes will be included in the guide.

Luedders said using the paper schedule of classes could be difficult for students because they have to flip the pages back and forth to plan out their classes.

The university will soon implement a planning module into the electronic Degree Audit Reporting System, so students could select classes needed to graduate.

“Within six months, the module will be attached to DARS,” Luedders said.

The principle behind the annual schedule of classes and the DARS planning module is to make the items user-friendly to students and to provide a better planning guide so students can move closer to graduation, Luedders said.

“We (the provost’s office) think that this will be advantageous to students,” Luedders said, adding that he thinks it will give good access.

Luedders said that every department has its own set of processes in the way in which someone prepares the schedule for the following semesters. In most cases, department chairs are in charge of scheduling courses, he said.

Luedders said the university could predict some data, such as how many students there are in a certain major, a campus headcount and unit loads for students. The information collected by officials helps departments create better class schedules.

“Departments can predict how students choose their classes,” he said.

Luedders said no one has voiced their disapproval with a change to the annual schedule of classes.

“The important thing is that students know what courses are going to be taught (in the current school year),” he said.

Forbes said department chairs will need to have their schedules for this session completed by March, and then Admissions and Records will publish the information in May before the end of spring 2006.

“This is a much better way for students to position themselves in the curriculum,” Forbes said. “All chairs of departments and faculty determine what classes are offered. We (Admissions and Records) then pick up that information and we are responsible for making this available to students.”

Faculty and department chairs will still be able to make changes to the temporary spring schedule.

“Departments have from May until November to rebuild that 20 percent (for the following year’s spring semester),” Forbes said.

Forbes predicts that all CSUs will eventually follow the online annual schedule of classes format because it is a more accurate model.

“I think the biggest obstacle is the way we think about it,” Forbes said, regarding possible negative backlash from students, faculty and staff to the change.

Mehran Kamrava, acting chair of the Anthropology Department, said he believed the new scheduling procedures would benefit CSUN.

“I think it’s good for the departments to have a long-term plan and a long-term curricula plan because it allows us to better manage our resources and determine what courses to offer (for three semesters),” Kamrava said.

He said his department schedules classes one semester ahead based on expected demands for classes.

“I think it’s good that we’re being forced to think in long terms because that allows us to plan in advance and manage resources accordingly so we know what is expected of us and available to us,” Kamrava said.

According to Kamrava, if a student tries to add a class online that is full, the website makes a record that a student tried to enroll in an unavailable class.

“Those reports are available for those (people who) schedule classes,” Kamrava said, adding that the consequences of initiating an online schedule is only something that is anticipated.

“Any major initiative has intended and unintended consequences. We need to anticipate any unintended consequences and attend to them,” he said.

Magnhild Lien, chair of the Mathematics Department, said she has not considered the new scheduling move.

“I think it varies from department how it affects each of us,” Lien said. “I think initially it would be a little harder to make an annual schedule of classes.”

Lien said she believes that the change would make it harder to make schedules because department chairs do not always know if a faculty member will be available for the spring semester of the following year.

“It’s a change and I’m not quite sure how it’s going to affect us yet. Our schedules are pretty set from semester from semester,” Lien said. “We have some last minute changes. You don’t want to make drastic changes because you have to plan around it.”

Bonita Campbell, chair of the Manufacturing Systems Engineering and Management Department, said she believes that an annual schedule of classes is a good move, but will also involve many changes.

“Going out an additional semester is going to have a larger range of variability and difference between what you are projecting will happen and what (will) happen,” she said.

Campbell said she usually has to complete the fall schedule by early February of the same year.

“If you try and predict student behavior, that becomes iffy,” she said. “You have no database or info source that would suggest anything would happen. You kind of cope with it and it works both ways.”

Campbell said she believes that student behavior is unpredictable because of the number of times a student will change his or her mind about their academic schedule.

“Even if you ask every student what their enrollment plans are for next year, something will happen,” she said. “The real world does get in the way. The list of things and events that can occur that are beyond students and faculty is very long.”

Campbell said, however, that the new scheduling would work out.

“It’s kind of amazing that thin
gs fall into place with enrollment considering all the variables,” she said.

Cynthia Ramos can be reached at cynthia.ramos.838@csun.edu.