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February 04, 2014

CSU hopes to wrap up 4-3 conversion this February

By Jordan Gonzalez

@jordanrgonzo

Bill Kosteas, chairman of the University Curriculum Committee and economics professor at Cleveland State University, said he finds the faculty’s work on the recent curriculum overhaul “pretty darn impressive.”

But that doesn’t mean it’s always been a positive situation.

A tremendous load for faculty
The four-three credit conversion and 120-credit graduation cap process, which officially began summer of 2012, has been tough on the faculty, who have been juggling teaching, research and services to their departments while continually re-writing their department’s programs, according to both Kosteas and Faculty Senate Vice President Nigamanth Sridhar.

“This whole thing has been a tremendous load on the faculty,” Sridhar said. “Especially people that are involved in the curriculum review process – the UCC meets once a week for two hours. In a given meeting we’re reviewing anywhere from 8-12 programs.”

“The amount [the UCC] is doing in a given meeting now probably exceeds what we’d do in a semester,” Kosteas said.

Some of the program reviews (programs are the specific majors) can be done in about 5-10 minutes, Kosteas said. Many of the CLASS majors, for example, are straightforward in their structure, making revisions fairly easy.

But in other programs, where everything is more specific and requires courses to be taken in a certain order, the timeframe can be up to an hour to review one program. Kosteas cited the example of the College of Education, which was already doing a complete overhaul of its programs, as an example of a lengthier review process.

The problem of advising on time
More than half of the department programs have now been approved, according to Sridhar and Kosteas, and with about 1,700 individual courses now approved, the individual courses are all but finished, said Sridhar. The majority of classes have undergone a 25 percent reduction (from 4-3 credits), with some exceptions for specific majors.

“We’re all working light speed, as quickly as we can to make sure everything is done,” Sridhar said. “Because we do have a hard deadline when scheduling opens up for registration, which will be in another month and a half. By that time all of this stuff needs to be completed.”

Kosteas said there is no official hard deadline, but ideally he’d like to see everything wrapped up by the first Friday [the 7th] in February, with the very latest option being the second Friday [the 14th] in February.

"The reality is we need to begin advising students,” Kosteas said. “My hope is that the only things that are left past [the deadline] are really minor revisions of things.”

The advising is dependent on the transition guides, which will assist department advisers when they advise new and current students registering for fall 2014 classes under the new curriculum.

Sridhar said the idea of creating transition guides originated during the fall 2013 semester once the problem of properly advising students was recognized. Provost Deirdre Mageean created a transition team to tackle the subject, which consisted of members from the provost’s office, registrar’s office and faculty.

The transition team meets once a week on Mondays, while UCC normally meets once a week on Fridays, to review and approve their respective objects.

“We’re really hoping against all odds to make sure that there is nothing that will fall off and have delays there,” Sridhar said. “Because that will immediately impact students, which we don’t want at all.”

Due to the time crunch, many departments have submitted transition guides to the transition team before the programs have been approved, “because they can’t wait,” said Kosteas.

However, the transition team is not officially approving transition guides until the respective program has been approved by the UCC; it’s merely a way to speed up the process.

“They submitted the transition guides in hopes that the program will be approved as is,” Kosteas said. “And in most cases they generally are [approved], but sometimes its minor little things that [the UCC] is asking them to fix, or sometimes it’s just a clarification.”

Although Cleveland State officials and faculty have promised students will be held harmless since the conversion’s inception, for current students following the old graduation sequence it might be a little rougher, Sridhar and Kosteas said. For example, if there was previously a two-course sequence that is now split into three courses after the conversion, students that previously took one of those classes now face some uncertainty as far as how to finish the sequence that now has an extra class.

“If you choose to stay with the old curriculum, then you’re meeting the requirements of the old curriculum,” Sridhar said. “But those courses won’t be available anymore. Which means what happens when you miss out in credit hours?”

Either way, the decisions of the individual departments will be addressed ahead of time to the students via the transitionguides during advising, Sridhar said.

Potential future problems
The work doesn’t stop after the last programs and transition guides are completed, though. Although the UCC is “tough” and they uphold “university-wide standards and regulations,” Kosteas said, due to the rushed timeframe (it’s been less than a year), not every course and program was examined with the greatest detail.

“We approved certain program changes that I have to tell you, under normal circumstances, we would have kicked it back and said ‘rethink this, redo this,’” Kosteas said. “But when you’re faced with this kind of time pressure and you’re only 15 percent of the way through the programs and you got a landslide coming at you, you can’t take the time to really scrutinize every proposal.”

Despite some of the negative feedback, President Berkman has continually praised the progress of the conversion and the its purpose. He reiterated that thought in an email sent to students.

“Our faculty and staff have made significant strides in converting from a 4- to 3-credit hour curriculum and implementing a 120-credit hour cap, both of which we aim to have fully in place for Fall Semester 2014.” Berkman said in the email. “These changes are of tremendous value to our students, providing flexibility in their scheduling and ultimately accelerating their path to graduation.”

The best scenario according to Kosteas would be to wait a while to weed out the glitches. Also citing fatigued faculty, he said he wouldn’t like to see revisions until after next year.

“I’ll reiterate, it was very unreasonable to demand that we do this so quickly,” he said. “Unreasonable because of the burdens, not just because of the burdens placed on us, but because it really doesn’t put students first.”