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UI to use new software to schedule spring finals

BY KRISTEN EAST | DECEMBER 13, 2011 7:20 AM

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University of Iowa officials said new software will change the final-exam scheduling process for the spring semester, despite few changes being made to this semester's finals week.

The UI uses UniTime for other scheduling purposes, and starting next semester, the free software will be used to ease the process of scheduling rooms and times for final exams, said Beth Ingram, the UI associate provost for undergraduate education.

"In the past, [scheduling] was a pretty manual process," she said. "We've reached the point where we're offering enough classes and we have enough students on campus to go with a process that would make use of technology and a computer software program."

Ingram said the biggest difference in the new system for students and faculty will be a delay in the final-schedule distribution.

The final exam schedule won't be generated until the fifth or sixth week of the semester, when students have stopped adding and dropping classes.

The software is used at other universities, Ingram said, including Purdue.

UI Registrar Larry Lockwood said UI officials are also, with the new software, going to avoid scheduling Friday evening exams as much as possible.

"That's something to look forward to," he said.

Lockwood said the new scheduling software will help ease the demand for numerous testing rooms and additional proctors and minimize student and faculty conflicts, especially with an increase in freshmen for the last two school years.

Last year's influx of freshmen contributed to a more expensive finals week for the fall 2010 semester, Lockwood told The Daily Iowan in December 2010. He said funding for finals week comes from individual academic departments.

"Once you start seeing the number of students increase, classes increase, and the number of exams increase," he said. "The new environment, we hope, will be able to fix that."

Some UI professors said they haven't noticed any changes to this year's final-exam week and don't mind the current scheduling system.

Robert Thunhorst, a UI research scientist in psychology, said splitting a class of more than 500 students into five or six different classrooms isn't something new.

"They do this every year because the class is so large," he said. "We have to separate such a large class into numerous classrooms so that there can be space between students — it might even be two seats."

Thunhorst said his students will not only be in different classrooms but at least four different buildings around campus.

"I don't think it really matters if they're in other buildings," he said. "We just need to have enough graduate students as proctors in each room. That's my concern."

UI freshman Brandee Britt said none of her final exams are scheduled to be split into numerous rooms, but she would prefer having more space during testing.

"I think it's a good idea," she said. "Being cramped together makes it more difficult to focus."


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