Faculty responds to provost’s bi-term proposal

Mitchell Grogg

The University Senate passed a resolution Thursday disagreeing with a provost proposal to increase emphasis on bi-term classes.

“The administration must not and need not ‘encourage’ or ‘increase emphasis’ on bi-term classes in any way or change the academic calendar to privilege their delivery or, in turn, enact concomitant shift to a per-credit-hour tuition structure,” concluded the resolution.

It came in response to a document Gordon Emslie, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, released in August 2012, proposing “that WKU consider a move to offer a substantially greater number of courses in bi-term mode.”

Susann Davis, a Spanish instructor, teaches four bi-term sections.

“I like the bi-term because the students are exposed to the language every day,” she said.

Morgantown senior Jessica Oaks also liked the daily exposure. She has taken one bi-term Spanish class and is currently enrolled in one.

“I was wanting to get as many hours as possible in the shortest amount of time,” she said.

Davis said that bi-terms can help students, especially foreign language majors, finish classes more quickly, since many of them have two majors.

“Instead of taking two years to complete (Spanish) 101 through 202, they could do it in a year,” she said.

The provost’s document outlines student retention, faster graduation and more flexibility for students and faculty as advantages of an increase in bi-term courses.

The document noted this emphasis on bi-terms could mean a transition to charging students solely based on the number of credit hours they take.

The report presented at the senate meeting disagreed with an increased emphasis on bi-terms.

“There is no reason to encourage bi-term instruction over semester instruction because faculty…already have the power to choose the format…that best fits a given course or curriculum,” the report said.

The report also said an increased bi-term emphasis could raise students’ educational costs overall, reduce time for student reflection and growth and confuse scheduling.

“Extant research suggests that there is no appreciable difference in the long term retention of knowledge and skills gained from a given course between students that took them in accelerated versus non-accelerated formats,” the report said.

Both reports by the provost and the senate note that more bi-term classes would increase the impact of faculty and student absences.

While Oaks found her Spanish bi-terms beneficial, she said she “can’t imagine” having to take her upper-level sciences as bi-terms.

Davis also said bi-term courses do not work for all students and that she cannot speak for other disciplines.

Emslie did not respond to the document at the senate meeting.

“I’ll study the resolution,” he said. “I will probably report to the Senate at its next meeting.”