Schedule: changes in store for Fall 2009

St. John’s will be implementing a modified schedule of when classes meet starting next fall. Under this new plan, 55-minute classes that meet Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays will be eliminated. Instead, Mondays and Wednesdays will more closely resemble Tuesdays and Thursdays schedule of 85-minute classes and the inclusion of two more common hours, bumping the total up to four a week.

In addition, the amount of courses being offered online are planned to be increased. University administrators hope the new changes will provide students with more flexible schedules and greater opportunities to meet with professors and become more active in campus activities.

“The new schedule allows for a common hour Monday through Thursday, offering students more opportunities to participate in activities and collaborate with students and faculty outside the classroom,” said Dr. Julia Upton, University Provost.

Under the new plan, the current schedule on Fridays and Saturdays will remain untouched. However, while only a few classes that meet on Saturdays will be offered, Joseph Capobianco, University Registrar, said several different options are being considered for Fridays.

For example, a student could have one 55-minute class on Friday that would be used to supplement one 2-hour class that meets earlier in the week.

There is also the option of taking one single-credit, 55-minute course or a three-credit class that lasts for three hours only on Fridays.

“Most students will be able to have a 4-day schedule instead of a 5-day schedule,” said Upton. “For commuters, this will save on gasoline and benefit the environment, as well as their bank accounts. For everyone, it will provide more opportunities for activities and collaboration outside of classes.”

Capobianco said the schedule changes would be uniform for the day schedules for the Queens, Staten Island and Manhattan campuses, while the Manhattan campus’ evening schedule will differ slightly from Queens and Staten Island.

According to Upton, St. John’s officials have been looking into modifying the current academic schedule for the last “three or four years.”

However, discussions began to pick up last September during a University Senate meeting, where an idea for a possible six-day class cycle was suggested.

“Last year, there was an idea that would have split the school week into pairs; Monday and Wednesday, Tuesday and Thursday, and Friday and Saturday, and to try and adopt this schedule for the fall 2008 semester,” said Capobianco.

“But, we did a very thorough study. We met with Deans on all [of] the campuses, as well as [an] e-mail correspondence with faculty and chairpersons, and the original idea was modified rather significantly from what we will have in place for the fall of 2009.”

Capobianco said major concerns raised from last year’s proposal included making Saturday an active class day and that this fall would have been too soon a time frame to employ these changes.

The University Registrar said the newly revised class schedule model was more well received than its predecessor by the St. John’s community.

“When we did the investigation on this, what became apparent was the majority of faculty who weighed in on this discussion liked the idea of having the two 85-minute units of instruction because they felt it was pedagogically better for them,” said Capobianco. “There were some that didn’t feel that way, but we found it very clear that the majority did feel that way.”

As for the addition of more online courses, Jeffery Olson, Associate Provost for Online Learning and Services, said a precise number of new classes that are going to be available next fall has not been determined as of yet, but felt their growth of online classes provided at St. John’s helps shows how vital such opportunities are.

“[Online courses] provide a valuable experience in learning and communicating using technology in a way that professions increasingly require,” he said.

Upton said she also feels online classes have their advantages.
“For those who like online learning, having more offerings will definitely be a benefit,” she said. “I taught an online core course two years ago. Although most of my students were from the Queens campus, several were from Staten Island, two were expecting babies during the semester, and three or four were doing internships in other parts of the country that semester.”

Other professors feel to a new schedule may still have a down side for some.

“I think that it’s going to help some, but there are other professors who still prefer the Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule,” said Dr. Mauricio Borrero, Chair for the History Department. “One point of concern could be, if we offer Friday classes, will students take them or be tempted by the three-day weekend?”

Some students seem to want to go for the latter.

“I just want Fridays off,” said sophomore Monica Follieri.
Junior Laura Macrini, who recently transferred to St. John’s from Florida State University, said she is against the two more days of common hour.

“I just think it makes things on campus more chaotic because everyone is out of class at once and sometimes they just don’t have anything to do,” she said.

Sophomore Andrew Perron said he felt a potentially less class-filled week would favor many St. John’s students.

“I think this will work out better for a lot of students because many of us have jobs or commute, so with classes four days a week, it’ll make the week go by quicker and make things easier,” said sophomore Andrew Perron.

Junior Frank Tisellano said he thought the new schedule was “a fantastic idea.”

“Having a three-day weekend without having to pack everything into Tuesdays and Thursdays would be really convenient,” he said.

Tisellano also said he welcomed the idea of more online courses offered by St. John’s, even though students cannot interact directly with a professor.

“You may lose that, but you gain the option of not having to make the trip to a classroom,” he said. “I don’t know if I would take [an online class] but that’s also convenient.”

Overall, University administrators seem to have high hopes regarding the upcoming changes planned for fall 2009.
“I think it will take a little bit of time in order to see how it’s received,” said Capobianco.

“But for me, the best possible scenario is that from the point of scheduling classes, there is a smooth transition from this system to the next, that the added common hours are put to good use and for St. John’s to continue their technological progression.