Academic Programs Committee ReportsReport of the Academic Programs Committee
Nov. 18, 1999
Items for Action
1. Undergraduate Special Topics Courses policy
The Academic Programs Committee of Council has been reviewing and updating the policies approved by the Academic Affairs Committee under the previous Council structure. Following is a revision of the policy for undergraduate Special Topics courses, which have now been used successfully by many colleges for the last eight years.
The following policy contains two substantive revisions. In section four, the previous policy said that special topics courses could never be used to substitute for a required course in a program. The new policy states that departments "would not normally" use a special topics course in this way. The Academic Programs Committee agreed that departments might, in exceptional circumstances, use a special topics course to assist students in meeting program requirements. In section five, the previous policy said that special topics courses could not be offered more than twice. The new policy states that departments cannot offer a special topics course more than twice "in five years." The Academic Programs Committee agreed that this change would make it possible for visiting faculty members to offer a course on infrequent occasions, without requiring the department to create a permanent listing for the course.
Undergraduate Special Topics Courses Policy
Approved by the Academic Affairs Committee of Council in February, 1991
Revised by the Academic Programs Committee, November, 1999
To allow colleges and schools some latitude in mounting course offerings when confronted by special circumstances. Visiting scholars, for example, could give a one-time offering in their field of expertise rather than fitting it into a regular course already on the books. In addition, these could be utilized to test new ventures, to have a fall-back when program changes have been delayed, etc. Special Topics courses can also be used as custom-designed courses for single students or groups of students.
1. Every offering of a special topics course must be recommended by a department and approved by the faculty of the college responsible for the course. It should be forwarded to the Academic Programs Committee and the Registrarï¿½s Office for information when the course is approved
2. A college may wish to delegate responsibility for approving special topics courses to its program or curriculum committee.
3. Courses must be in an approved subject area and should be numbered 298, 398, 498, 598 or 299, 399, 499, or 599. Special Topics courses may not be offered at the junior level.
4. These special topic courses are not intended to replace regular course offerings and normally cannot substitute for a required course in a program.
5. The maximum number of times a single topic can be offered is twice in five years. The Academic Programs Committee will periodically review the offerings to ensure compliance.
6. While colleges will determine the maximum number of credit units in special topics courses that could be applied to a program, the Academic Programs Committee expects the total should exceed 6 credit units only in exceptional circumstances.
That the revised Undergraduate Special Topics Courses Policy (dated November 1999) be approved.
2. Spring and Summer Session
When the Academic Services Committee (ASC) was disbanded last spring, the Academic Programs Committee assumed responsibility for its terms of reference.
One of the major policy issues being reviewed by the ASC at that time was the proposal to integrate the summer sessions. Several documents have been distributed to colleges and departments over the last year and comments have been gathered from across the campus.
At present, the university runs two six-week sessions over the summer. Intersession usually runs mid-May until the end of June. Summer Session usually runs from early July until mid-August. The University of Saskatchewan has been offering Summer Session classes since 1914 and Intersession since the mid-1960s. Spring & Summer Session is a newer designation which covers the whole period and is used by graduate students and some undergraduate courses which are taught over four months.
No objections have been received to the recommendation that Intersession, Summer Session, and Spring & Summer Session be integrated into a single four-month session lasting from May to August, to be called Spring & Summer Session. Students would continue to take courses as they do now over the summer, so that they can complete a full course in either term and still have a few weeks for holiday or employment.
The rationale for this change was stated in the March 31, 1999 ASC report:
The existence of three different sessions in one four-month period is unnecessarily cumbersome from an administrative point of view, and serves no academic purpose. The proposed change is consistent with the spirit of the Universityï¿½s Nomenclature Report (which sought to minimize the number of different terms and sessions) and will help to alleviate the confusion which arises when the same students are registered concurrently in different sessions.
Please note that the amalgamation of the summer sessions will not change the way in which the summer sessions are currently used. For example, students will continue to be admitted to Colleges only for the Regular Session; quotas will continue to be administered with reference to Regular Session registration; tuition sharing agreements currently in place for the summer sessions will continue; the May-August period will continue to be used largely for intensive courses offered over a quarter or a term; the availability and publicizing of such courses will continue to be coordinated through the Extension Division.
Impact on students
The only negative impact of this proposal is its implications for University policies on the maximum number of credit units which can be taken per session. The existing policy restricts all students to a maximum of 9 credit units in each of Intersession and Summer Session. Students admitted under Open Admission are restricted to 6 credit units "per session" and so are now allowed to take 6 credit units at each of Intersession and Summer Session, as well as 6 credit units in the Regular Session.
Application of the existing policies to the new Spring and Summer Session could adversely affect students who want to take extra classes during the summer, and would be unnecessarily restrictive to students who are admitted under Open Admission.
Equivalency of course hours
The discussion about the sessional designation, however, has also brought into focus a second issue the unacceptable disparity in classroom contact hours between classes taught in winter sessions and classes taught over the summer.
A six-credit-unit course taught over the winter, with three lecture hours per week over 26 weeks, can contain about 78 hours of instructional lecture time. The same course taught over the summer, with two lecture hours per day over 6 weeks, can contain only 60 hours of instructional lecture time. That this disparity has existed for more than eight decades makes it no more acceptable in the eyes of the campus academic community.
The Academic Programs Committee circulated an ASC report over the summer which described two models for Summer Session: the existing model of two six-week terms consisting of two hours of lecture per day, and a new model of two seven week terms consisting of two hours of lecture per day (about 70 hours of lecture for a 6 credit unit class). See Appendix One for a copy of this report.
At the time, it appeared less administratively complex to maintain the terms at six weeks each. So when the Academic Programs Committee circulated this report in July, it recommended the six-week sessions. However, most of the colleges and departments which replied to the Committeeï¿½s request all endorsed a change to the seven-week model in spite of the difficulties.
The Committee must agree. It is academically unacceptable to continue shortchanging students in summer classes. The principle of equivalency between the Regular Session and the new Spring & Summer Session must be endorsed by Council and implemented.
However, changing to two seven-week sessions as shown in the proposed model will require certain adjustments. In particular, the Regular Session deferred exams will have to be moved so as not to conflict with the Summer Session first term finals. However, the Academic Programs Committee also agreed that holding these deferred exams earlier might be better for students and for faculty.
Some financial issues may also arise, both for students whose residence costs for seven weeks will be more than they are now, and for faculty and sessional lecturers who may request alterations in the collective agreements.
The Academic Programs Committee also discussed the suggestion that the existing six-week sessions could remain in place, but that courses could be taught for 2 1/2 hours per day over six weeks (about 75 hours of instruction). It was noted that this would maintain the principle of equivalency, while not causing as many problems as the change to seven-week sessions. Class periods for summer classes already are reserved for 2 1/2 hours each day. However, several committee members with experience in teaching summer classes indicated that two hours per day of lecture five days a week is long enough for both students and faculty, so it would not be realistic to require longer daily teaching periods.
After considering all these issues and the feedback provided by academic units, the Academic Programs Committee recommends:
1. That Council approve the amalgamation of the existing summer sessions (Intersession, Summer Session, and Spring & Summer Session) into a single session, to be called Spring & Summer Session, to consisting of two terms including two quarters each.
This change will be implemented for the session beginning in May, 2001, depending on administrative systems in the Office of the Registrar and the Extension Division.
2. That Council endorse the principle that instructional hours be as similar as possible, regardless of the session in which the course is taught.
3. That Council endorse the change to two seven-week terms, including two quarters in each term, in Spring & Summer Session, to be implemented as soon as administrative arrangements for the change can be made.
4. That, when the seven-week terms are implemented, Regular Session Deferred Exams be moved to the week immediately following the First Quarter final exams in Term One of Spring and Summer Session.
5. That the rule limiting students to 9 credit units per session for each of Intersession and Summer Session be abolished, and that the authority to decide on limits to the number of credit units which can be taken in each Quarter or Term of the new Spring & Summer Session be made by each College, as is already the case for Regular Session.
6. That the issue of how many credit units may be taken during Regular Session and during Spring & Summer Session by Open Admission students be referred to Unclassified Studies Faculty Council, so that these students are not unnecessarily restricted in the number of credit units they can take per session.
Items for Information
1. Review of program proposals. The Committee is pleased to report that as of its Nov. 3 meeting, it had already reviewed all of the proposals for new programs, program deletions and program changes from Colleges which were submitted this fall. In some cases more information is required, but for the most part the information sent to the Committee has been detailed and complete. The proposals are now being reviewed by the Budget Committee and must also go to the Planning Committee as well. It is anticipated that program proposals will be forwarded to the December and January meetings of Council.
For the information of departments and colleges planning new programs and revisions, the Guide for Program Submissions is nearing completion and will be available later this year. Copies will be distributed to Council members and to all Colleges. Printable versions will also be available on the University Council website http://www.usask.ca/university_council
2. Course Deletions for the 2000-2001 Calendar. Under Council policy, the Committee has authority to delete from the Calendar any course which has not been taught for more than five years. The Committee will be reviewing this list and contacting colleges about deletions by the end of November.
Respectfully submitted on behalf of the Committee,
Linda Suveges, Chair
Academic Programs Committee of Council
S. Blythe, USSU
A. Kumar, GSA
J. Conway, Psychology
L. Currie, Library
G. Davis, Physics and Engineering Physics
T. Deutscher, STM History
Z. Hajnal, Geological Sciences
B. Lucas, Economics
T. Marchant, Biology
D. Pennock, Soil Science
H. Wagg, Sessional Lecturers
K. Smith, Registrar
P. Melis, Office of the Vice-President (Academic)
M. Evered, Acting Associate Vice-President (Academic)
M. Atkinson, Vice-President (Academic)
P. MacKinnon, President
C. Fornssler, Committee Coordinator (Secretary)
Academic Programs Committee of Council
Nov. 18, 1999
Integrating our May-August Sessions: A Proposal Prepared by the Academic Services Committee March 31, 1999
(including memos received from colleges and members of faculty)