UTPA's first May minimester rates well with students, faculty
Posted: 07/13/2004
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Results from a survey conducted at the end of the first May minimester or mini-term offered at The University of Texas-Pan American May 10-27 indicated enrollment exceeded administration expectations and the majority of the faculty and student respondents would teach or take a minimester format course again.

Predicting an enrollment figure of 600 as a success, administrators tallied 803 students in the 31 classes held over five colleges at the University, including Arts and Humanities, Business Administration, Education, Health Sciences and Human Services and Social and Behavioral Sciences.

The minimester class, an abbreviated, concentrated three-week period of instruction containing the equivalent amount of material and credit offered in a standard college semester of 16 weeks, met Monday through Friday in three different time frames - 8-11:30 a.m., 1-4:30 p.m. and 5:30-9 p.m.

The minimester met with few complaints said Dennis McMillan, associate vice president for Enrollment and Students Services.

"The most frequent complaint of the few we received from students was their inability to take more than one class in the minimester. We had students wanting to take a course in the morning and one in the evening," he said.

McMillan said because of the concentrated and intense time frame and educational program requirements in the University's accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, students were limited to taking only one course during the minimester.

The survey, developed by Dr. William McIntyre, dean of the College of Health Sciences and Human Services, and Dr. Ana Maria Rodriguez, assistant vice president of Undergraduate Studies, was distributed to participating students and faculty during the minimester's final days.

"The purpose of the survey was to determine the effectiveness of the University's first attempt at a minimester and to provide constructive feedback for incorporating future minimesters in the academic year. The survey results confirmed that the minimester format for most was a positive and successful academic experience," Rodriguez said.

The anonymous survey solicited responses based on a scale from one (strongly agree) to five (strongly disagree).

Questions asked of faculty included those regarding class attendance, quality of student work, test frequency and ability to meet course objectives as compared to a regular semester. Students were asked questions concerning why they took the course during the mini-term and if they had enough time to complete course assignments and required reading.

With a survey response rate of 47 percent by faculty and 66 percent by students, results indicated that 95 percent of the students would take minimester courses again and 100 percent of the faculty would teach the course again in a minimester format. More than 80 percent of the faculty responding agreed or strongly agreed that they had enough time to meet course objectives and that the quality of student work equaled that of a regular academic period.

One of several faculty suggestions to improve future minimesters was to alter assignments to give time for students to finish work in class.

Dr. Lester Rydl, chair and associate professor in CIS and Quantitative Methods, taught CIS 1301 - Computer Information Systems, an entry-level computer literacy course, during the minimester.

"It was very intense because we met every day for three hours if you factor in breaks. But we actually ended up with more contact time than a regular semester if you consider a regular semester involves two and one half hours a week for 15 weeks. My students even liked the fact that it was very intense and that it was every day - they got into that pattern," he said.

The most popular response by the students as to why they took the course was the desire to complete their degree plan as soon as possible. More than 85 percent of the students agreed or strongly agreed that they had enough time to complete their assignments as well as to absorb and process the material.

In addition to wanting to take more than one course, other suggestions by students were to provide additional library, lab and parking hours and offer more courses, especially upper-level courses.

Yaneth Salinas, a junior from San Juan majoring in pharmacy and one of Rydl's students, saw the minimester as a great experience and would highly recommend other students to take advantage of it.

"Since there are fewer students, it allows a greater level of communication between the students and the professor. It does take triple the amount of discipline than a fall or spring semester, but it is not difficult," Salinas said.

McMillan said an early review of the survey data suggests the University should continue to offer the May minimester every year.

"We will also initiate discussions about the feasibility of offering a minimester at Christmas break between the fall and spring semesters as well," he said.