Students looking to skip classes they deem too easy may be able to do so legitimately starting in the fall of 2015.
Don Greenberg, the vice president for academic affairs of the Student Association and a junior triple-majoring in computer science, finance and mathematics, has been working with Binghamton University administrators on the Course Replacement Program since early last semester. The program would allow students who have a demonstrated proficiency in a certain subject to take a final for that class and opt out of it if they pass.
Contingent to this, however, is that the student must also enroll in a class similar in subject and rigor to the one they are forgoing. For example, a student who wants to opt out of Calculus II would have to take another 200- or 300-level math class instead. Students may test out of a certain required class, but would not get credit toward actual credit hour requirements.
Greenberg is currently in the process of taking the proposal to the School of Management, as well as departments such as math and history to refine it and get approval. In about two weeks, he said, he will present it to the Harpur College Council.
He said that at first he was worried the plan would not gain traction, but that every administrator and faculty representative he has talked to so far has given positive feedback.
“The reason that people are receptive is that there are a lot of Binghamton students that want to do something really exceptional with their education,” Greenberg said. “It’s for the students who are going to do something really rigorous and that’s how it’s going to gain affinity with the professors. The professors are going to like it more and more as they see students creating more rigorous curriculums for themselves.”
The program leaves up to individual department’s discretion what classes are eligible. According to Greenberg, professors will be able to decide what constitutes a student’s understanding of the subject matter, whether it be a final exam, papers assigned to the class or a midterm.
Greenberg originally took the idea to Celia Klin, the associate dean of Harpur College, who said that she liked the proposal and looked forward to seeing how Greenberg’s office would develop possibilities for assessing the students’ proficiency in different subjects.
“It’s great to have students come forward and ask for a way to take more rigorous courses,” Klin said. “I will be eager to see a fully worked out proposal, one that addresses differences between the colleges at Binghamton University and between the departments, and that addresses some of these issues.”
Jonathan Karp, an associate professor of history and the chair of the Judaic studies department, said that the idea was a good option for students that could sufficiently prove their previous knowledge.
“I think [the plan is] worth entertaining because if a student can demonstrate proficiency in the subject matter of the course through an exam then I think it should be optional for a department to consider giving them credit for that course,” Karp said.
The new program could be beneficial for students who narrowly missed a high Advanced Placement test score, said Chris Szabo, a senior majoring in psychology, but the University should still have stringent requirements for opting out of a class.
“I would be careful in designing those tests and making sure people actually have a full understanding of the material itself, because often people can test out but still not have an understanding of the material,” Szabo said.
Sara Hobler, a freshman majoring in history, said that the proposal was a good idea that she would like to take advantage of.
“It would make things more efficient,” Hobler said. “You’d have fewer kids sitting in classes they don’t belong in. If you think you’re capable of doing what the final exam would require of you, why would you have to sit through an entire course that tells you essentially what you already know?”