UCSC Shortens Classes, Adds New Time Block

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Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 2.42.33 PMStarting fall 2016, all classes that meet three times a week will be five minutes shorter, and all classes that meet twice a week will be 10 minutes shorter. The shift to shorter class times creates an additional time slot for classes that meet on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 4 p.m. to 5:05 p.m.

“We’ve noticed a growing increase in the challenge of scheduling classes because the seats available are dwindling in terms of the physical space of scheduling the class,” said University Registrar Tchad Sanger.

The move to shorter class times isn’t new. It was initially proposed in 2011 by Interim Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education Mark Cioc to accommodate for increased enrollment and class impaction.

Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education Richard Hughey consulted the Academic Senate and Student Union Assembly to make this decision.

“Our enrollment planning started to slow down a bit in terms of the amount of student growth that we were planning on having, so it sort of went on the back burner,” Hughey said.

But when the UC agreed to enroll 5,000 more undergraduates to hold off the tuition increase last year, he said the large class of incoming freshmen made the issue of expanding class times more pressing.

UC Santa Cruz is limited by the number of classrooms, the seating capacity of those classrooms and the amount of time per week that those rooms are allowed to be scheduled for use.

While building new classroom spaces and large lecture halls are part of the Long Range Development Plan — a continually updated road map for development, expansion and construction at UCSC — these plans are restricted by time and limited state funds for construction.

“We need to continue coming up with creative solutions that we can adapt to while we’re waiting for permanent solutions to the problems,” Sanger said. “Building a large classroom building like Classroom Unit 1 or Classroom Unit 2 is a multi-year project that we can’t expect anytime soon, so we need to protect ourselves until that happens.”

The new time blocks for classes that meet twice a week and three times a week will be 65 minutes and 95 minutes, respectively. UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC San Diego and UC Riverside have class time blocks scheduled for 50 minutes three times a week and 80 minutes two times a week.

“Our classes meet for longer per unit than any other classes in the UC system by a noticeable amount, so we’re moving toward the system norm,” said Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Herbie Lee.

Some students are dissatisfied with the decision.

“We’re still maintaining above average [class times], but I don’t see that as a reason they should have cut the classes,” said Guillermo Rogel, the Student Union Assembly vice president of external affairs. “It’s something that happened really quickly with very little student input.”

While the change will not sacrifice major amounts of class time, it does contribute to concerns with exam scheduling and staff shortages.

“One of my remaining concerns … is about final exams, and there are two issues there,” Richard Hughey said. “We added one more time slot, meaning we need one more final exam slot and for next year, we move from a four-day to a five-day exam schedule. More important than that is the accommodation scheduling because we have a growing number of students who need exam accommodations.”

The new time slots will also mean that there will now be 15 minutes between all class times except one time slot on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which will have a 25-minute passing time.

Creating new class time slots also generates a need for more faculty and teaching assistants, which increases the burden of housing shortages.

“Our campus is getting a whole bunch of challenges to accommodate these larger classes,” Hughey’s said. “But we’re doing that to make sure more students come to our campus and get a great education, and that’s really important. It’s challenging, but [it’s] important to rise to the challenge.”