Innovative class scheduling begins fall 201801/24/2018
Dear Faculty and Staff,
After discussion by the colleges and a detailed review by the Registrar’s Office, as well as much-appreciated input from all sectors of our University community over the past four months, we have decided to move forward with the implementation of an innovative class schedule beginning fall 2018. This initiative has been vetted and carefully thought out. Quality learning, student success, and serving the needs of our students will be the primary foci of what we have deemed as “Five-Star Fridays.”
Without repeating the letter sent out earlier in the month that both solicited feedback and reiterated the concept and reasons underlying Five-Star Fridays, I wanted to provide information that hopefully further clarifies the initiative, explains the timing, and emphasizes the benefits. In light of our current situation, again, it is imperative that we continue our quest for better ways to respond to the needs of current and prospective students; to creatively distinguish ourselves in the marketplace; and to implement unique approaches that attract traditional and nontraditional students.
Five-Star Fridays – Briefly
In principle, most students will attend classes Monday through Thursday and then participate in practical, career-focused learning experiences on Five-Star Fridays. Courses will be taught for the same amount of classroom time and will involve the same academic rigor as they do currently. The courses will just be organized a bit differently throughout the week to allow for a more concentrated and purposeful set of experiential learning opportunities for students as a result of making Fridays available in this manner.
This schedule will be unique among universities in our region. In essence, it is an institution-wide commitment to provide our students with even more opportunities for cooperative education, internships, practical skills development, work, co-curricular activities, community service, lab work, research, advising, tutoring, and more. Students also will be encouraged to use Fridays to attend special events, collaborate with faculty and peers, and take advantage of expanded academic counseling, tutoring, career fairs, and other career services. This schedule will give students three days of concentrated time to prepare for classes, engage with study groups, and participate in meaningful study and research.
While this is a novel step, a number of departments at major universities in the Washington, D.C., area, for example, do not schedule Friday classes so that students can intern with government agencies that day. As a matter of fact, we currently have very few classes that meet five days per week, so this change is merely a repackaging of our offerings in order to give students dedicated time to explore increased opportunities outside the classroom. As I said earlier, quality learning and student success are our primary foci.
Five-Star Fridays – Timing
Based on considerable input, we believe that “Five-Star Fridays” together with our other distinctive initiatives (e.g. Akron Guarantee Scholarship, esports, tuition guarantee, college-centered advising, etc.) and programs will improve our ability to attract and retain students at a very critical time for UA. Moving forward at this time will not only enable us to promote our new “Five-Star Fridays” to prospective students immediately as now is the time that they are selecting their university, but it will also provide departments with sufficient time to further develop and perfect the fall semester schedule in time for registration.
Over the past four months, the Five-Star concept has been openly discussed at college and administrative unit town hall meetings, at UA’s Faculty Senate, and with University Council. We have invited faculty, staff, and administrators to provide feedback. It has been discussed among University leadership and within colleges and departments. A survey was conducted of our undergraduate student body, with nearly 5,000 responses recorded, and conversations have been held with dozens of high school counselors, numerous high school principals, UA supporters, and industry, among others. We have even consulted with the Chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education. Based on the positive feedback received, the time to act is now.
Five-Star Fridays – Logistics
In planning for the Five-Star Fridays initiative, the Registrar together with chairs and directors have carefully reviewed our course offerings and they found that nearly all classroom instruction can be implemented on a Monday – Thursday schedule while maintaining academic quality. In the few cases where a revised schedule would be problematic, we will either maintain the current schedule or make additional arrangements. Likewise, some courses, (for example, music, dance, and art) need daily engagement with students for pedagogical reasons and those can continue in that way. Deans, department chairs, and school directors will work with faculty members to make those types of accommodations.
The more courses that we can shift to the Monday-Thursday schedule, the more distinctive we will be as a university. Creative options abound in terms of scheduling. For example, courses currently scheduled for three days per week (Monday/Wednesday/Friday) could either be offered on two days during the week – by extending the typical 50-minute class to 75 minutes – or alternatively, by moving to a Monday/Wednesday/Thursday schedule. For many years, many courses at UA have been scheduled for two days per week (either Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday), and those will be able to continue in that manner.
The new scheduling approach will assist students with their organization and preparation, make possible more flexible learning opportunities and be yet another of UA’s distinguishing features for prospective and current students. It will make scheduling job and internship interviews easier for all students. It will also facilitate greater student preparation for entering the workforce and potentially allow students to earn money toward their education while studying at UA. As students use the day wisely, it will certainly enhance their experience and increase the value of their degree.
As a daily witness to the professionalism and caring extended by our faculty and staff, I have no doubt that come next fall, our students will have ample opportunities, incentives and reminders to use their Five Star Fridays wisely. Thank you again for all that you do, every day, for our students and our University. We are here to serve our students, and this initiative will help achieve this mission.
Matthew J. Wilson
The University of Akron