The semester race to register for classes has begun, and students are stepping on hands, feet and trampling torsos to get their courses. However, this semester feels slightly different for a certain group of students at the University of West Georgia. Senior students are especially upset with this recent occurrence.
In the Mass Communications department the growing number of majors, coupled with other contributing factors has created an uncomfortable conflict for students that want to register for the media research and media law courses. This frenzy has led to a feeling of animosity from students towards professors.
“I have very ugly emails from a student that wants to take media research and said that she had for the past few semesters, she went on to criticize our department in the email,” says Camilla Gant, Ph.D., Mass Communication Department Director. “When I gave her record a look, I saw that this student had not even finished the core course section.”
So what are the reasons for this traffic jam? Could it be an act of negligence on behalf of the department? Or is this just simply a by-product of increasing population of majors in this particular focus?
“That is a misconception; there is not a bottleneck in registration for any of our four thousand level courses,” says Gant. “Students have a structure where certain courses should be taken at certain times, and we have students that are out of sequence for several reasons.”
The most important aspect of taking college courses is sequence. Sequence is critical because there are courses that require completion of a lower level course in order to register, and prior knowledge of course content. Advising is the mechanism that controls proper sequencing of courses, but students are still able to deviate from proper sequencing in cases where prerequisites are not a limit.
In the case of Media Research, which is also referred to as COMM 4484, the one requirement is that a student must finish the COMM 1154 course with a C or better. This “loophole” allows open registration for students ranging from freshmen to seniors. Not to mention there is a period before registration opens for seniors that allows a special group of students to register beforehand. This grouping includes student athletes, students with disabilities, student ambassadors and others.
In addition to an entire department of students in a mad dash toward the same classrooms, there is also another loophole that is being exploited.
“One of our most popular sequences is film studies, now it is called Film and Video Production, do you know what our majors are doing? They are taking our Mass Communication courses and counting them towards their film studies minor,” said Gant. “And we have no control over that, and we are not equipped to support another minor.”
Film and Video production students are in a compromising situation, because for students enrolled in this minor there are limited options for courses, sometimes only two courses per semester. So in lieu of this, the Mass Communications department has allowed these students to continue to register for the courses that count toward their minor. This is all done to protect students that are on schedule to graduate. However, beginning next fall the department will install a new mechanic that will apply a cap to students using this loophole.
“We have implemented a program modification that starting next fall no more than three credit hours of communication courses can count toward any minor,” said Gant. “This will free up so many seats.”
The department has been battling with the issue for some time now and in the past, in this situation, overrides were given to students.
“The concept of overrides combines sequence and on track for graduation, we do not turn down students that are taking courses in proper sequence, this paramount,” said Gant. “I have been here at West Georgia for 20 years and there has never been a student that missed graduation because he or she was turned away, that is fact.”
But now, professors are giving 15-20 overrides-this doubles the normal class size. This effects course designs because the same design cannot be applied to a classroom of 50 students.
“Class size is extremely important, a certain ratio of students is needed for effective learning, especially in these cases,” said Gant. “I am teaching research right now, I have 39 students, so now I have to change course design to incorporate more group projects.”
In order to permanently remedy this issue, the department has acquired funding and will hire more faculty members; however they will not be available to the department until next fall. But in the long-run this will allow the department more flexibility to course sections that are showing demand.