With its students facing rising gas costs to travel to campus for classes, The University of Texas-Pan American has announced a number of changes to its class scheduling for the fall 2008 semester to not only help students save money on gas, but to also provide other opportunities to enhance their University experience.
The changes include the following:
• Offering Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon classes only on Monday and Wednesday by extending the classes on those days to 90 minutes rather the 50 minutes each day on the traditional three-day schedule.
• Creating two new timeframes for taking Friday afternoon classes - 1:10- 3:50 p.m. and 4-6:30 p.m.
• Creating an 8:30-noon timeframe for offering Saturday classes.
Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning class timeframes as well as those on Tuesday and Thursday afternoon will remain the same.
"These changes provide a number of combinations of timeframes that could still accomplish the goal of completing at least 12 to 15 semester hours of coursework a semester and cut down on the number of days involved in traveling by students," said Dr. Ana Maria Rodriguez, senior vice provost for Undergraduate Studies, Academic Assessment and Retention.
Rodriguez said the schedule changes can also provide other benefits for students.
"We believe the extension of timeframes for Monday and Wednesday classes to 90 minutes will have a positive impact on learning in the classroom. The timeframe allows a faculty member to cover more material to a greater depth in that time rather than what can be covered in a 50-minute period. We hope this will improve student retention and success," she said.
In addition, Rodriguez said, the open Friday afternoon timeframe could provide an opportunity for students who choose not to take Friday afternoon classes to become more involved in campus activities, such as student organizations.
"Research shows that student engagement in academic and student life has a strong correlation with student retention and success. The more time students spend interacting with faculty members in courses and outside of class and the more time they spend engaged in campus organizations and activities, the greater the likelihood that they will be successful in college," she said.
Even before the sharp rise in gas prices, a University-wide task force of faculty, students and staff had been studying the issue of scheduling for the past two years. Following a recent recommendation by academic department chairs to renew the discussion on schedule changes, particularly in the light of the sharp rise in gas prices, Provost and Vice President for the Division of Academic Affairs Dr. Paul Sale constituted an Ad Hoc Scheduling Committee that recommended the final schedule changes that were approved by the Council of Deans and Provost in spring 2008.
Rodriguez said the fluctuations in gas prices would not be the only criteria the University would use to determine whether the changes will be permanent or not. The University will also evaluate the impact of the changes on student learning, the increase and/or decrease in student enrollment, and the patterns of student enrollment in courses over the next two years.
"At the end of our evaluation period, the University will determine whether or not the change has had an overall positive impact on the goals toward which the University is working - access to a college education, retention and graduation. Changes that have a positive impact on these goals will continue to be made," she said.
Students can review course schedules and register for classes online through ASSIST (Advanced Services for Student Information Supported by Technology) at http://assist.utpa.edu. For more information about admission and registration at UTPA, call the Admissions and New Student Services office at 956/381-2999.