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November 7, 2013

Less down time could rush students out of class

By Alberto Paneccasio

Starting in fall of 2014 Cleveland State University will move to a new time block grid for scheduling class. The new grid will coincide with the credit conversion from 4-3 beginning next fall.

The current class block schedule grid was created in 1977 and was last revised when Cleveland State moved from a quarter to semester system. The start time for each block currently is based on a four-credit class. The transition to a dominant three credit hour model will streamline course offerings.

The new grid model in circulation is being viewed by most faculty and students as an improvement, but they are also raising some concerns.

“After hearing and looking at this new time block scheduling grid, I do not appreciate it at all,” said Tamara Aziza McDowell, senior biology major. “Classes are too close together, the teachers will be running over their scheduling time, with the new times for classes it will not let teachers get what they want to cover because those five extra minutes do make a difference so the minutes they are cutting will make a difference.”

Recently Cleveland State implemented scheduling software (Ad Astra) that allows the university to closely monitor scheduling patterns to make future improvements.

“Ad Astra allows departments and the registrars office to be able to schedule in sequential order the classes a student can sign up for,” said Carmen Brown, vice president of Enrollment & Student Services.

Ad Astra did a study and found that some classes in the current time schedule go off-grid, which means the classes overlap with one another. A student that is taking a class that is ‘overlapping’ will never catch up to the next sequence of the class because you are coming in 10, 15, 20 minutes later after that class has started.

Discussing the new time block schedule Brown said that if you are in one of those classes that is off-grid you’re not going to be able to take that next class.

“Our mission is to help students, and by implementing this new grid we feel that it will give students more efficiencies when scheduling your classes and makes the enrolling easier for them and the grid plays a very important role,” said Brown [see graphic on right].

According to Brown the new class block schedule will serve two key purposes: It allows the university to maximize classroom use and it will give students maximum registration options, making it easier for students to schedule classes and therefore graduate sooner.

The current grid does not adequately support courses of varying credits or provide faculty with options to support their teaching needs and different pedagogical styles.

“The new time block scheduling grid that is being implemented in fall of 2014, was voted on by the students here at Cleveland State University,” said Provost Deidre Mageean.

Administrators feel that the new system will also increase options for students, reduce university-imposed downtime between classes and provide framework for all course offering (1 credit-5 credits). Importantly it allows faculty choice based on pedagogical styles that do not impede student course scheduling.

Tamara also made a point that her anatomy class she said was an hour an a half and now is fifty minutes and this class is doing terribly because they do not have enough time to get through the information. She said there is not enough time to get through the material on test days and this will cause more stress to students if every class is set up this way.

It is difficult for classrooms to be utilized fully if someone stays in the class 10 minutes over into the next block that means the next block can’t be used in that classroom.

Theresa LaGrange , vice provost for academic planning, made note during the interview that it is also very difficult for students to prepare a coherent schedule and I have encountered several students when I was teaching that would say “ Oh I really want to take this class but I can’t because my previous one overlaps at 15 minutes is it okay of I come in 15 minutes late? That is a disservice to students.”

“I have never seen a institution where classes start at a whole range of different times and places, one start at 9:45 and one starts at 10 and another 10:15 etc,” said Mageean.

The university administrators point out that the new system has many positives when it will be implemented in 2014.

“The thing you have to keep in mind is that everybody in the entire higher education industry uses time block grid blocks, it is just a method of coordinating when classes start and end and finding a location for them, without people bumping into each other and overlapping each,” said LaGrange.

Commuter students have a big issue on this new time block schedule because they hope it will really benefit students. When the grid was shown to residents and commuters on campus many said good things could happen with this.

“I think that this will benefit students because the attention span of someone goes 25 minutes for the average person, so honestly of it’s an hour class than its better than sitting there for two hours,” said Bill Likos, junior Bio-medical technology major at Cleveland State.

“I work at four so it would be more convenient finishing my classes earlier in the morning rather than rushing to do homework and studying before work with current grid we are in,” said Briana Capone, freshman Special education major at Cleveland State.

The university officials anticipate the new time block will better meet the needs of faculty and students.