A new academic policy in the works may make choosing classes every semester less of a gamble.
The Michigan Student Assembly Academic Affairs Commission has initiated a push for a policy that would require professors to provide more information online about their courses before students register for classes.
John Lin, chair of the Academic Affairs Commission, said that this change would allow students to make more informed choices about courses.
“We realized that when it comes to registering for courses students don’t really have that much information to make their decisions off of,” Lin said.
He said the commission would like to see professors post their syllabuses on CTools before students register for classes.
“By putting that online ahead of time, you’re providing students with the information that you are going to cover, the books you are going to require, your exam dates – all the stuff that’s really important for Michigan students,” Lin said.
The commission is working in partnership with the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs’ Academic Affairs Advisory Committee.
Prof. Gregory Wakefield, chair of the SACUA committee, said in a phone interview that while requiring professors to post their exact syllabus may not be realistic, the committee supports a general increase in the amount of information provided to students at registration.
“All of us want to make sure that what we are teaching in our classes is understood as being here and available to our students,” Wakefield said.
At last night’s meeting, MSA reviewed a resolution that would allow the Academic Affairs Commission to continue to lobby SACUA for this policy. Once the Academic Affairs Advisory Committee forms a policy change, it will submit the change along with the committee’s recommendation to SACUA for consideration, Wakefield said.
The MSA resolution is set to be voted on next week.
LSA sophomore Alex Levine, who co-authored the MSA resolution, said in an interview that this additional information could help students find courses that they are particularly interested in.
“We just want students to have the ability to take courses that interest them the most and giving them the extra information from faculty will help them find those that they really grasp on to,” Levine said.
Wakefield said a syllabus outline or a syllabus from a previous semester would be more feasible for faculty and that it would still provide that additional information students want.
Many professors may not have their exact syllabuses finalized by class registration, Wakefield said. Some may not have made a week-by-week breakdown yet, or may tweak their syllabus once the semester starts, based on students’ interests, he added.
According to Wakefield, the most plausible way to see that this policy is enacted would be to keep the definition of syllabus broad.
“We want to make the definition of what would be provided, frankly, as flexible and as reflective of the kind of education that goes on at the University as possible,” he said.
Students in attendance at the meeting said the policy would be a welcome change.
LSA senior Jessica Moore said that within a specific major, class material overlap is a concern. This policy could prevent that possibility.
“It gets kind of repetitive if you sign up for two classes and they sound like they’re going to be different from the short description and they end up being almost exactly the same,” Moore said.
Knowing exam dates is extra important for out-of-state students who have to book flights, LSA senior Nehal Patel said.
“My roommate is out of state and I know she has to wait one or two weeks into the semester to figure out when she can go home,” she said.
— Tim Hall contributed to this report.