Winter session is coming for BGSU


BG Independent News

In moving to a new calendar with shorter sessions, Bowling Green State University is not entering uncharted waters.

In his review of the progress on adopting the new calendar John Fischer, vice provost for academic affairs, said that BGSU was behind the curve as one of the last public institutions in the state to cling to the 16-week semester. The University of Toledo is switching this fall.

BGSU is planning to implement the new calendar in fall, 2018.

The Board of Trustees accepted the new calendar in concept at its last meeting. No other approvals are needed.

Still that doesn’t mean the university can simply cut and paste what its sister institutions have done.

Fischer said when they surveyed to see how other universities have handled particular issues, they got a variety of answers. And there are a lot of issues as demonstrated by the questions posed by members of the senate.

The new calendar would have a 14-week semester in fall and spring, with one week of exams. That trims one teaching week.

Fischer said that BGSU now exceeds the required number of “contact hours” required by the state. This will bring in line with state regulars.

The current schedule has 2,370 contact minutes a semester, 2,250 of which are in class meetings and 120 minutes for an exam. The new schedule would be a total of 2,250 contact minutes with, 2,100 for class meetings and 150 in an exam period.

Fischer said that the longer time devoted to exams will make that period even more important.

He said Provost Rodney Rogers, who was in attendance, often asks students in line at Starbucks, what they are doing for exams.

While many are taking exams or other appropriate semester concluding activities, some report that they are leaving before exam week because they “negotiated” to get out of exams.

Making best use of that period will become all the more important. “We are teaching even when we are assessing,” he said.

The new schedule will allow for the creation of a three-week winter session. How that session would work prompted most of the questions.

Students will not be required to be enrolled for classes during that session, Fischer said. That was the overriding concern of trustees.

At Miami, which has had the schedule for a number of years, 5,000 students participated in the winter session, Fischer said. He does not expect anything like that kind of participation. If 2,000 students earned credits at that time, that would be a lot for the first year.

The winter session is envisioned as giving students a chance for learning experiences, such as internships or shadowing. Many of those, he said, may very well involve students traveling to a warmer clime to learn. That could be an archaeological dig in the Southwest or studying coral reefs. Students could also take part in short-term study abroad trips.

How many credits student could earn in the three-week period would not be more than six, and may be restricted to four.

Many students, he said, would take advantage of the extended winter session to work to earn money to pay for college. “I don’t think many students will be taking face-to-face courses,” he said. What is offered will be determined by demand.

He said in discussing the issues with undergraduate and graduate students, they react more with interest in the possibilities the new winter session provides. The faculty has more questions about how it will work out.

How faculty will be compensated, and how the winter session courses would figure into their teaching load, is a matter of negotiation with the union.

David Jackson, president of the union, said he expects those talks will begin soon.

In coming up with the calendar, Fischer said, the ad hoc committee working on the project had a number of parameters.

Those include graduation not being held on Christmas weekend, no exams on Saturday and Sunday; and at least a week before the end of the summer term and the beginning of fall term.

The calendar satisfies all those.

The new schedule will mean that there will be only a few days between graduation in May and the beginning of the first summer session.

Tim Brackenbury, of Communication Sciences and Disorders, was concerned that this would place a heavier load on that program’s graduate students. They are already pushed to the limit, he said.

Fischer assured him that graduate students would not be required to work winter session, though they may be hired on an adjunct basis during that time as they are now for summer term.

Under the new calendar, the fall break will be eliminated. All holidays that students now have off will be retained, including the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Spring break will continue, and it will fall after the halfway point in the semester. Fischer said he did not know if the Bowling Green School District would still coordinate their break with the university’s vacation.

Geologist Jim Evans, whose children are adults, said many younger faculty would appreciate that.

Spring break in 2019 will be March 18 through March 22.

For those really interested in planning ahead, Fischer said, the calendar has been projected out to 2070.