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Semester switch hard, but good change

Scott Boden, assistant director of residence life; Steven Fink, co-chair of the Semester Conversion Coordinating Committee; Melinda Nelson, associate provost and search coordinator for Student Life; Kellie Uhrig, director of marketing communications for Student Life; and Sean Fitzpatrick, director of academic affairs for USG, discussed the quarter-to-semester conversion on Nov. 21, 2011.

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University officials have 600 courses left to be re-evaluated out of a total 3,000 that needed further examination for the upcoming quarter-to-semester switch.

Steven Fink, co-chair of the Semester Conversion Coordinating Committee, told The Lantern Monday the process of revising course numbers and names and reassessing course material will be completed by December at the latest.

“We are still in the process of transitioning every major, every minor, interdisciplinary, graduate program and so on,” Fink said. “Every course has been resubmitted and reviewed through its respective college and through Academic Affairs and that process is just about done.”

Fink said the 600 courses that remain to be reviewed are graduate and interdisciplinary courses.

“All the major programs and undergraduate programs are pretty well finished,” he said. “In terms of courses, there are close to 13,000 courses that had to get resubmitted.”

Fink said the quarter-to-semester conversion will be completed on time as projected for Summer 2012.

“We looked at the curriculum on a college-by-college basis,” he said. “And some just needed mechanical changes, while others needed more.”

Fink said the university is aware of trends in enrollment that switching to semesters has caused in similar universities.

“At the University of Minnesota, there was an uptick in enrollment right before the switch, which is expected as those who want to graduate take heavier course loads,” he said. “Similarly, there is a decline right after the switch.”

OSU will prepare for this predictable pattern by “staffing for these changes,” Fink said.

Fink said he was not sure how much the conversion was costing the university, but he said the reasons for the switch were not financial.

“A great advantage is that there are some 19 other institutions switching to semesters in the state of Ohio, and we want uniformity,” he said.

Melinda Nelson, associate provost and search coordinator for Student Life, said the university has received a positive reaction from faculty.

“I think a lot of them are jazzed,” she said. “A lot of faculty felt restrained by the 10-week term.”

Fink said there were some kinks in the road for OSU when ironing out the course material.

“Change is hard, but change is good. You’ll have the professors who look at this as an advantage and an opportunity, and you’ll have those who have worked for the university 20 years and are not so excited.”

Fink said the switch should also make students happier with textbook purchases.

“Most textbooks are geared toward semesters,” he said. “So, now we’ll stop trying to fit a round peg into a square hole.”

A concern of many university officials is the distribution of fees, Nelson said.

“Fees are just split up differently because now instead of splitting them up into three chunks, students will need to pay two,” she said. “So even though it’s the same amount, students will have to pay differently.”

Fink said as the courses are scrutinized and finalized, they are sent to the registrar’s office and put on the website for students to see.

OSU will offer a summer term that will consist of a four-week session followed by a one-week break and a seven-week summer session. The upcoming summer break will be 72 days long from the last day of finals to the first day of classes. The 2011 summer break was 102 days in contrast.

The conversion will be most students taking five three-credit hour classes instead of three five-credit hour classes, like most full-time students currently take,” Fink said.

Sequences will be adjusted as well, Fink said.

“Many programs will offer bridge courses, for those who have taken the first course in a sequence, but not the rest,” he said. “But those will be disappearing in a few years.”

Instead of the minimum 181 credit hours required to graduate, Fink said that number will change to 120.

Scott Boden, assistant director of residence life, told The Lantern the university conducted focus groups for OSU students last winter and spring.

“Most students were worried about how it would affect them on an individual level,” he said.

Nelson said in order to fill classroom space and time, most students will have to deal with Friday classes.

“There will be Friday classes unfortunately,” she said.

Fink said the message he wants to drive home to students is to start preparing now.

“The contingency is that there is a mutual responsibility,” he said. “Students need to be consulting with their advisers now.”

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