The overarching principle is that the students will be held harmless if they take their advisers’ advice seriously, said Raymond Irwin, administrative dean for academic affairs at Central Ohio Technical College.
His institution and The Ohio State University-Newark, which share classroom space on the Newark campus, are preparing to convert from quarter- to semester-based academic calendars, and the transition hasn’t been easy.
“It’s affected about everything you can imagine,” said Irwin.
According to a news release from the schools, Aug. 22, 2012 will be the first day of classes under the semester calendar, approximately one month earlier than the previous start to autumn quarter.
The semester system divides the school year into 15-week fall and spring semesters. The quarter system is based on four 11-week terms.
The state established the initiative as part of the University System of Ohio requiring that all public institutions of higher education convert to a semester calendar, the release said. Reasons included an easier transfer of credits with other public institutions and an earlier end to the academic year, allowing graduating students to get an earlier jump entering the job market.
Irwin said all students who have an individual advising plan and who stay on those plans would be able to transition their quarter-based coursework into semester-based coursework with no loss of academic progress, no delay in time to graduation and no increase in total tuition and fees expended for the degree program.
For Ohio State, the university senate voted in June 2009 to adopt the semester calendar. Following that vote, the Office of Academic Affairs established the executive coordinating committee comprised of faculty, staff, regional campuses, deans, students, and partner colleges to meet monthly as a central forum to guide the transition, according to a release.
“We’re still thinking of stuff” that the transition affects, Irwin said. He said some needs, like curriculum and credits needed to graduate, are obvious but others aren’t quite so apparent, such as space allocation for classes, online courses and even the local businesses that count on knowing when students are free for summer jobs or work during breaks.
“We know we’re going to have all sorts of bumps,” he said.
He said the Newark campus is more affected than others because COTC and OSU-N share classroom space and both institutions must have all the sharing worked out before classes begin next fall.
“Our entire campus in Newark is shared between the two institutions, including facilities, financial aid, fees and deposits, human resources, and other staff members,” said Suzanne Bressoud, assistant director of marketing and public relations for OSU-N and COTC.
She said each institution has its own faculty, administration and admissions and advising offices. COTC operates three extended campuses in Coshocton, Mount Vernon and Pataskala.
Irwin said COTC began testing its semester scheduling in September but OSU-N will not begin doing so until Jan. 1 or perhaps a little sooner, so COTC must wait to see how its schedule meshes with Ohio State’s.
“This makes us a little nervous,” he said. Still, “we’re going to have everything worked out in February for the fall schedule. It’s been a real interesting thing.”
Paul Sanders, associate dean for OSU-N also seems confident.
“It’s an interesting challenge but we’ll be ready,” he said.
Sanders said OSU-N offers a broad range of classes and the transition to semesters has been complex. He said overall, Ohio State offers roughly 13,000 classes that had to be converted to semesters.
Irwin said the conversion will be toughest on existing students, who are accustomed to quarters.
He said advisers are working to talk to all students who must make the change in the middle of their college careers.
He said significant online help also is available for students to figure out what’s expected of them.
Sanders said students also will need to adapt to taking five classes per semester instead of three per quarter. It will be important, he said, for teachers to keep this in mind when assigning homework. He said professors should keep in mind that even though students have more time, they’re taking more classes, so the workload evens out in the end.
Sanders said Ohio State offers a website for students called My Switch, myswitch.osu.edu, to help them navigate the transition. After the transition, Sanders said, a bachelor’s degree will require roughly 120 credit hours, which is significantly less than required in the quarter system. That doesn’t mean a bachelor’s will be less work, he said, but rather proportionately different.
Irwin said COTC has worked on this transition for two years and, in the end, he believes it will be a positive change.
“Transfer should be so much easier for our students,” he said.