As part of the University’s reaccreditation process, the College, Goizueta Business School, Laney Graduate School and Oxford College will alter the number of credit hours designated for courses in fall 2013. The move will decrease the number of credit hours required for B-School graduation and may also alter graduation requirements for the College, University administrators said.
According to Joanne Brzinski, senior associate dean for undergraduate education, Emory will follow the Carnegie Unit system in which the number of credit hours for courses matches the number of “contact hours,” or the amount of time students are in the classroom, per week. The changes will affect all students, including those who are currently enrolled, Brzinski noted.
“I think it’s a very exciting change,” Brzinski said, describing the credit-hour alterations as “the single biggest change” since the University changed from quarter to semester hours in 1982.
For the College, this change means that the “standard” class — or those that meet for three 50-minute periods each week — will be worth three credit hours, according to College Dean Robin Forman. However, Forman wrote in an email to the Wheel that most of the courses that are currently worth four credit hours will still be offered for at least four credit hours following the changes next year, which includes classes with a lab component or those designated as “writing intensive.”
Language classes that meet for five 50-minute periods each week will provide five credit hours. A few courses, such as those that require longer hours in lab components or two labs each week, will likely be designated to six credit hours. Intensive language courses that meet for extensive amounts of time every day of the week will probably be designated with eight credit hours, according to Brzinski.
Forman and Brzinski specified that administrators are currently discussing whether the graduation requirements, which is currently 128 credit hours, for the College will be changed next year.
According to Andrea Hershatter, senior associate dean and director of the BBA program, the B-School will move to almost all three credit-hour courses, with a few exceptions for classes that meet for “variable amounts of time.” As a result of the changes, the B-School will change its graduation requirements from 138 credit hours to 128.
Herstatter clarified that as a result of these changes, BBA students will have to take at least one more class in the BBA program than they do now, as well as “a few things that [the B-School] will be adding over time that will be intensive, credit-bearing experiences.”
“In the long run, this is going to be an excellent outcome for students,” Hershatter said. “Every day I work with students who feel like they have insufficient room in their schedules or don’t have enough room. The new [policy] will allow students to pursue courses just for the sheer joy of taking them, and I think it’s going to be fine. I think the only concern is about a successful transition for students.”
The Laney Graduate School will move to mostly three-credit courses, according to Brzinski. Representatives from the Laney Graduate School said they were unavailable to comment by press time.
Oxford College will keep all of its courses at four hours but will add additional contact time to its coursework, according to Brzinski. As a result, Oxford faculty might incorporate initiatives involving service learning into courses to ensure that students have four hours of contact time each week.
According to Brzinski, all departments in the College have submitted their requests for the number of credits that each course will offer. There are nearly 2,500 courses offered in the College, and 1,700 have already been approved, she said. The remaining courses, particularly those that include independent study or lab components, are currently undergoing review, and the University expects that it will finalize the changes by next February.
The College’s Undergraduate Curriculum Committee and/or the Educational Policy Committee must ultimately approve the submitted changes, and some changes will require the vote of the entire College faculty, according to Forman.
Reasons for the Changes
According to Claire Sterk, senior vice provost for academic affairs who is overseeing this initiative, the new policies will be part of Emory’s reaccreditation by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges (SACS) in 2014. Forman wrote that the University must be reaccredited by SACS every 10 years, a process that enables the University to quality for federal funds.
“Emory receives a substantial amount of federal funding to support both research and student financial aid,” Forman noted.
He explained that during Emory’s last accreditation review, SACS questioned — for all Emory schools — the disparity between the number of credit hours for some courses and the number of contact hours for students each week. Subsequently, Forman said the issue “was on our radar.”
In addition, during the past two years, the Department of Education has examined the practices of some new for-profit institutions in the United States, Forman wrote. As a result, the Department of Education decided that in order to be accredited, every institution must abide by the Carnegie Unit system where one credit hour represents one hour per week that a student is in direct contact with the professor as well as two hours of required work outside the classroom each week.
Brzinski said the changes will ensure that Emory is consistent with the policies of institutions across the nation. According to Sterk, many, but not all, of Emory’s courses were in compliance with the new federal guidelines.
“For a number of courses, the students were doing additional work for which no formal credit was given,” Sterk wrote.
While the new credit-hour policies are the result of external changes, demand within the University also determines how these alterations will play out, Brzinski said. She said some programs have expressed concerns in the past few years that certain courses that meet for longer periods of time in the course of one week merited more credit hours.
Impact on Courses, Graduation
“As we examine and readjust our credit hours, we are simultaneously looking for opportunities to improve the overall curriculum,” Forman wrote. “I have been very impressed with the creativity with which our faculty have approached this project. In many cases, as a result of this review, the syllabi of individual courses were modified in really interesting ways.”
Many departments will change several of their courses in different respects as a result of the new policy, according to Brzinski.
Brinzski noted that “there are several things [faculty] can do with their courses” to ensure that they abide by the Carnegie Unit standard and ensure that they match the number of contact hours with credit hours each week.
“Based on feedback from the past, people were taking courses that required more credit hours, and they spent so much time in the classroom,” Brzinski said. “That was actually the biggest complaint we had about it. In terms of scheduling, students felt they were carrying a much bigger load than other students.”
Many faculty members have also “designed wonderful new components for their classes,” including out-of-the-classroom activities or discussion components that will enable the courses to continue to offer four credit hours to students, Forman explained. In addition, some classes will simply meet for four hours a week, Forman wrote.
According to Hershatter, however, for the B-School, it would be unnecessary to add extra components to its courses.
“Our students will benefit more if we simply have them take more classes,” she said, adding that there will be a few exceptions for classes that meet for variable amounts of time. For example, she noted, the B-School is currently considering adding new one-credit hour components to the BBA track.
Brzinski noted that there have been “a lot of conversations about how this will change how students schedule their courses.”
She added that the main concern is a “sense of uncertainty” about how this changes will ultimately play out but also said that departments did an excellent job of reviewing their courses.
“They will have to figure out how to account for that [contact] time,” she said.
The changes taking place in the B-School will affect Certified Public Accounting (CPA) students to the greatest extent, Hershatter said. She said that in order to take the CPA Exam in almost all states, a student must have completed at least 150 undergraduate credit hours and 30 hours of accountancy beyond the course.
As the process currently stands under the 138-credit hour requirement, CPA students already have to overload into additional courses at the B-School, stay at Emory during the summer or use Advanced Placement (AP) credit to fulfill the requirements of the track.
The accounting department has “already ramped up its offerings so that there are enough courses on the books,” Hershatter explained.
She noted that the B-School is working with the department to develop a solution, such as a possible Masters in Accountancy program.
“I think it’s going to even out,” Hershatter said of the changes in the B-School. “But the current freshman will probably feel the full impact of the transition, and the incoming students will probably never know a different way.”
In the College, individual departments are currently reviewing their major requirements in light of the changes to course credit hours, Forman said.
He noted that while in some departments most courses will stay at four credit hours, departments that change to three credit hours “might propose reducing the number of hours required for the major.”
The answer to whether these changes will apply to credit students receive from AP exams will be determined by the College’s Educational Policy Committee, which is a committee consisting of College faculty, Forman wrote.
Informing the Students
Brzinski explained that the College is planning on launching a campaign next semester to inform and advise students of these changes and how they will affect the student population.
Beginning next fall, administrators plan to “communicate precisely what the changes will be, so that everyone will have plenty of time to plan accordingly,” Forman wrote.
He additionally noted that administrators have not yet communicated the changes with the College as a whole “for the simple reason that we really did not know what we were transitioning to” as faculty finish reviewing department courses and determine major and graduation requirements.
Meanwhile, Hershatter said the B-School has begun informing prospective freshmen about these changes and has been meeting with CPA students.
“As these issues become relevant for other students, we’re making sure they’re advised and on track with hours to graduate,” Hershatter said.
While Forman said he does not believe the College needed to necessarily adjust its credit-hour system, he sees the new credit-hour system as “a necessary change.”
“Though this transition is a major distraction from other things we could be doing, we are doing our best to turn this into a positive opportunity,” Forman wrote.
— Contact Jordan Friedman.