The Good, Bad and Ugly
of OSU’s first semester since the 20th century
By Alexis ShawPosted Dec 3, 2012
After a seemingly never-ending 15 weeks, the first semester (since the 1920s) at Ohio State is officially over. For some, the first semester was a breeze, leaving them very satisfied with the university’s decision to switch from quarters. But for many others, the adjustment was much more difficult than originally anticipated. Between the workload, stress and all other changes that came with semesters, the majority of students seemed to have negative reflections about this new academic schedule.
“Had I started college on semesters, I would probably not have any complaints about semesters because I would think that’s how college is,” said Amy Nowland, a fourth year studying psychology. “But knowing quarters makes semesters pretty rough.”
Even though there were years of planning and preparation put into the semester switch, it’s nearly impossible to address and anticipate all of the potential problems. After the completion of the first semester, the semester conversion committee will have a better idea of what they need to change for the following semesters to come.
“It would be easy to find fault with some small things that didn’t go well with the semester conversion, but the truth is it doesn’t do anyone any good,” said Robert Eckhart, a professor in the English department. “We prepared as well as we could for many years, and we just had to make the leap.”
After speaking to many students, faculty and staff, the main factors that seemed to be a reoccurring problem among them was the workload change that semesters brought, as well as the stress levels of students.
When semesters were introduced to students, a large focus was on classes taking place over a 15-week period instead of 10; work would be more spread out. Teachers were supposed to take more time to assess material so students didn’t feel rushed throughout the semester. Many teachers planned accordingly for this, and were able to change the way they taught their classes.
“A quarter is like a sprint, and a semester is like a race,” said Alexis Martina, a professor in the English department. “It was key for me to realize that I couldn’t cover the same amount of material in a week on semesters that I could in a week on quarters.”
For those teachers who consciously made an effort to keep their classes at a slow pace, students tended to have an easier time with the workload adjustment. Students were able to see the benefits that semesters brought their homework load. Although the amount that work was spread out really helped students manage their workloads, some still seemed to think that the classes were maybe a little too spread out.
“We would study one topic, have the homework due a week later, and then get quizzed on it two weeks later,” said Mira Bacon, a fourth-year in landscape design. “By that time, we had already moved onto a different topic.”
Although many teachers were conscious of the amount of work they gave to their students, many still seemed to forget there was supposed to be a slower pace on this new system. Many students reported to be struggling with the amount of work they had from week to week and felt that teachers needed to adapt to the new system faster than they did.
“I feel like my professors aren’t used to semesters yet, so I am doing the same amount of work each week but for six classes instead of four,” Nowland said.
As semesters continue, teachers will presumably get the hang of how they need to pace their classes, but the first couple semesters will still be a learning process. Since many teachers have gotten the chance to learn from their mistakes this first semester, they already know ways that they can change for the spring.
“I think teachers need to realize that they can’t give the same amount of homework each weekend as they used to,” Eckhart said. “We need to be respectful that students are still adjusting and not burn them out.”
“I’ve been teaching here since 1993 and I’ve never seen the students this stressed out,” Eckhart said. “The only way to describe it is that they have to keep a few more balls in the air. Instead of juggling three to four classes, they’re taking five to seven classes.”
Before OSU switched to semesters, students were bound to be stressed at some point. It’s normal for a college student to be stressed out at some point. But by adding all of the changes that semesters brought, specifically extra classes, many students found themselves getting burned out. On quarters, students only had to manage 10 weeks of a class before they could move on. Unfortunately on semesters, students have to sit through 15 weeks of a class before they can be relieved.
“I feel like this semester was never ending,” said Sarah Montell, a second-year in public affairs. “It just kept dragging on and on, whereas on quarters it was a manageable amount of time. This is the most burned out I’ve ever felt.”
The schoolwork wasn’t the only thing that seemed to stress students out this semester. Because students were worried about the workload they were experiencing this first semester, many were stressed out about how to schedule their classes for the spring. Along with considering the workload of each class, students also seemed to be thrown off by the fact that the university tended to offer fewer classes on Mondays than on Fridays. On quarters, students could get away with never having class on a Friday, which made it easier for them to go home for a longer weekend. Since this is no longer the case, planning has gotten a little bit more stressful for students.
“When it came time for students to schedule for Spring Semester, I had way more appointments than I did when I was on quarters,” said an academic adviser asked to remain anonymous. “Students seemed a lot more worried about what classes they should take than they have been in the past.”