Proposal takes a closer look at class scheduling

A proposal is on the table for Binghamton University to reexamine class scheduling and look at the possibility of completely revamping the system.

The proposal, created by the Advancing Learning team of BU President Harvey Stenger’s Road Map plan, states that a “comprehensive study needs to be undertaken to determine if Binghamton’s current semester schedule and weekly class schedules are the best utilization of space and time without compromising our desired learning outcomes.”

In addition to examining BU’s weekly class schedule, the proposal calls into question whether the 15-week semester is an appropriate length, suggests the possibility of Saturday and Sunday classes and calls for experimenting with self-paced classes that would provide all course material up front and allow students to progress at their own pace.

William Ziegler, a member of the small subcommittee of the Advancing Learning team and an associate professor in the Watson School of Engineering, said in an email that scheduling alternatives would give students more options for coursework and professional experience throughout the semester.

“Flexible semester scheduling could be advantageous to students to pursue internships, co-ops, research, study abroad, community engagements, and other opportunities,” Ziegler wrote.

One option that could offer students that flexibility, Ziegler said, is having classes for seven weeks followed by seven weeks of service or internship. Ziegler said this would also help international students and adult workers returning to school.

“The more flexible our scheduling, the more opportunities for adult students to attend college,” Ziegler said. “The overriding concept is that flexible scheduling could be an advantage to faculty and students to allow each to compartmentalize their time and focus/engage to adapt to changing opportunities.”

Ziegler said the experience of the members of the subcommittee led them to want to challenge BU’s traditional course scheduling.

“In my 34 years at Binghamton, I think we have always used the M/W/F and T/Th scheduling model,” Ziegler wrote. “Obviously, it is successful, but we should try other models as well.”

Tom O’Brien, co-chair of the Advancing Learning team and a professor in the graduate school of education, said the proposal calls for an investigation of different scheduling possibilities rather than any specific changes to class scheduling.

“This is about the unquestioned answer,” O’Brien said. “The unquestioned answer is that a class has to meet three times a week for an hour or twice a week for an hour and a half. This proposal is not really narrow in scope, but it’s more to empower faculty and individuals in departments to try something new.”

O’Brien said this proposal stems from the Advancing Learning team’s main proposal to enhance the Center for Learning and Teaching.

“We’ve had a center for learning and teaching for maybe 12 years,” he said. He noted that in the last year or so, the center devoted a lot of energy to student services like tutoring but that “the faculty development piece is significant.”

Optimally, O’Brien said, the team would like to have a full-time director, support staff and a physical place.

Sarah Glose, member of the Advancing Learning team and a sophomore majoring in English, offered a student’s perspective on nearly all of the team’s proposals.

“Not having been college students for many years, sometimes faculty and administration need to hear how things have changed for college students in today’s environment, and I tried to represent that the best that I could,” Glose said.

Glose said the proposal to reexamine class scheduling could most directly impact students by allowing them to schedule jobs and internships around class.

Though she said it requires further research, Glose supported the proposal and said it could open up significant options for students.

“There are definitely pros and cons to the current scheduling proposal, but right now I think it’s working reasonably well, and there’s no reason to rush into anything new without doing our homework first,” Glose said.

David Unger, a sophomore majoring in management, was interested in the proposal but said that it isn’t necessary to change up weekly class scheduling.

“Leave it the way it is,” Unger said. “We’re already becoming one of the top schools — clearly what we’re doing is working.”