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Summer semester doesn’t quell conversion worries

Some called it the “short-mester” or the “mini-mester,” but Ohio State’s seven-week summer semester has come to a close, leaving some with apprehension about the semester to come.
After three years of conversion meetings, semester planning and email updates, the semester system returned to OSU for the first time since the 1920s, but not without mixed feelings. There has been concern about the effect on students with combining former quarter classes into new semester ones.
Summer 2012 enrollment was down 26.1 percent compared to summer 2011 following a record number of degrees conferred in June at Spring Commencement. Lower enrollment meant smaller classes, but a shorter term was more challenging for many.
Mary Faure taught a summer engineering class and said the shortened semester was a challenge for both her and the students. She said students had to do more readings and assignments outside of class.
“The students are not used to this approach,” Faure said. “Some of them had to learn to be more responsible and more attentive to the class calendar.”
Cara Jarrett, a fourth-year in fashion design, took a summer magazine writing class and said she wished she had more time to develop the skills learned.
“In writing it’s difficult to develop all that in such a short amount of time,” Jarrett said.
Mark Suszek, a third-year in aeronautical engineering, said the semester was “a bit short’ but that students and faculty were making it work for the summer.
“We had to cut some of the useless sections out which makes the class more manageable,” Suszek said. “But all in all, (it’s) still kind of rushed.”
Some quarter classes have been merged into one semester class and have caused some students to wonder how they will fit 20 weeks of learning into 14.
“Starting off I think it’ll be good, but the biggest thing I’m nervous about is what all they’re fitting into courses,” Jarrett said. “I know they’re cramming some stuff together.”
Jay Johnson, assistant provost at OSU, said that the combined courses still have the same learning objectives.
“Many departments did a curriculum map with the University Center for the Advancement of Teaching to look at their curriculum and make sure that students were being exposed to the right contents at the right time,” Johnson said.
Alan Kalish, director of UCAT, worked with the curriculum mapping and said a program called Course Design Institute helped faculty, graduate teaching associates and teaching staff to redesign courses in a structured way.
“The point is not to do absolutely everything that you did before,” Kalish said. “It’s to think about what was the point of the class, what skills and knowledge were people supposed to come away with in sort of a general way.”
The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry combined five 100-level courses under quarters into two new courses in semesters, a change that worries Chase Starrett, a third-year in mechanical engineering.
“If they combine the chemistries, then I’m going to have to retake chemistry, which is one of my concerns about the switch over,” Starrett said. “I’m just praying for those kids already. It’s going to be tough.”

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