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Officials: Expect more Friday classes next fall

BY CONRAD SWANSON | FEBRUARY 08, 2012 7:20 AM

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University of Iowa students will likely see more Friday classes next fall.

Following faculty requests, the Registrar's Office will offer Wednesday/Friday classes in the upcoming fall semester to compensate for an overcrowded Tuesday/Thursday schedule.

The change follows a ruling last year that mandated all classes begin and end on a standard time frame — eliminating start periods 15 or 45 minute into the hour — to get rid of wasted class space and overlapping course times.

UI general-assignment classrooms saw an average of 31.25 percent occupancy on Fridays for fall semesters since 2008, while remaining days of the week kept occupancy above 50 percent. The highest, Tuesday, saw 61.25 percent occupancy.

"We're trying to fill a lot of blanks," UI Registrar Larry Lockwood said. "Tuesday/Thursday is very full and very popular."

The basic goal for the new schedule, say UI officials, is to offer better utilization of campus classrooms at times that are most efficient for professors.

"The goal is to offer more 75-minute time periods," said Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education Beth Ingram. "The new time periods are in response to a lacking class availability and faculty requests."

UI officials have previously discussed increasing the number of Friday classes to curb drinking habits. Officials first began to increase the number of Friday classes in 2007.

However, since 2008, the number of Friday classes has decreased from 1,101 to 966 in 2011.

UI economics Associate Professor John Solow was a driving force for the move to a standard scheduling system. Unlike many of the professors requesting more 75-minute class blocks, Solow prefers to teach in 50-minute blocks three days a week.

"I find it easier to do that," he said.

However, he said, he has noticed the difficulty in trying to move the time for a class, especially a large lecture.

Anthropology Assistant Professor Margaret Beck said she prefers 75-minute blocks.

"The more fragmented your time gets, the harder it is to get things done," she said. "Things like mentoring, research, and writing."

The Wednesday/Friday time slots could potentially alleviate pressure for professors who have been stuck in early or unusual time slots.

"There are only so many large lecture classes," Solow said. "Why do I get the 7:30 [a.m.]? Because we start with what happened last semester. Once you've got a particular slot, you've got it for a while."

He acknowledged that many UI students' weekends begin Thursday evening. Though that often leads to lower class attendance on Friday, he said, he's hopeful that students who sign up for Wednesday/Friday classes would take the commitment to heart.

"In the end, it's the students' responsibility," Solow said. "It's a choice. You have a choice to make. I don't believe in 8:30 [a.m.] classes on Fridays to teach kiddies to get up in the morning. Given that, it is what it is. If you want to succeed, then you probably should do it. If not, you take the consequences."

Beck said she agreed with the stand for personal responsibility but recognized with students' frequent need for time away from school, either for leisure activities or for work.

"It's really important for students to have times free," she said. "But then they need to schedule it that way."


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