Bi-term debate among faculty continues

Mitchell Grogg

The discussion of bi-term courses at WKU is on hold after a resolution against an increased emphasis on such courses passed at a University Senate meeting last month.

Gordon Emslie, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, put forth the idea for an emphasis on bi-term courses in a document last August.

The senate and its Academic Quality Committee are opposed to an increased emphasis on bi-term courses. One of the major reasons against it has to do with the caliber of universities WKU might be compared with under a system that more heavily favored bi-term courses.

Guy Jordan, Academic Quality Committee chair, said bi-term programs aren’t beneficial.

“The students come out of these programs, by and large, not holistically educated,” Jordan said.

An analysis of TopNet found that WKU offered 266 bi-term course sections this semester. These courses represent a total of 56 course prefixes. The physical education prefix, with 31 sections, had offered the most bi-term course sections.

The analysis also showed an overall increase between the spring 2008 semester, the least recent one available on TopNet, and the current semester. The only decrease in bi-term courses came in the 2010-2011 academic year.

Emslie’s proposal identifies higher retention rates — more than 90 percent — of students enrolled in bi-term courses as an advantage to an increased emphasis. Those students also had higher grade point averages than students enrolled in semester-length courses, according to the document.

An analysis conducted by the Student Government Association’s Administrative Vice President Cain Alvey predicts an increased cost of around $5,600 for out-of-state students and an increased cost of about $2,000 for in-state students taking 30 credit hours per year in the current charging system.

For now, Saundra Ardrey, head of the political science department and program director of the African-American Studies Program, said faculty members teach bi-term classes at their own discretion.

“If a faculty member says that a bi-term does meet the learning objectives of the course, and the learning needs of the students, they will offer a bi-term class,” Ardrey said.

“Faculty have those options now, and faculty who are experts in their fields, who have the best interests of their students in mind, are in the best place to determine, freely, as they can now, whether or not they offer a course in whatever mode of delivery that they choose to offer them,” Jordan said.

Emslie did not offer an immediate response at the senate’s most recent meeting. In an email Wednesday, he said he did not wish to address the matter until after the next senate meeting, scheduled for Feb. 21.