As I have begun the journey into my last year of school, I realized that this week marks the last time I will be registering for classes in my undergraduate career.
As I began to tally up my credits and scramble for courses outside my major, I discovered that I do not know much about why my classes meet when they do or how four seems to be the magic number for the credits I receive per class.
As someone who knows Elizabethtown College’s course system inside and out, Dr. Brian Newsome, associate professor of history, College Registrar and Dean of Curriculum and Assessment, offered up a few answers as to why the College conducts registration the way they do.
As a general overview, he explained to me that Etown was not the only college to have a four credit course system in place.
“There are a number of colleges that have four credit courses. Some of those classes meet for four hours [a week] and some meet for three, with a floating fourth hour for projects and such. The College shifted to the four credit model to provide a richer learning experience for the students,” Newsome said.
This “richer learning experience” is basically a way to give student’s the ability to focus on four classes instead of the normal five that other colleges have implemented.
While this seems reasonable, some students wonder if having that extra class would really be that big of a deal.
“Some of my classes are three credit and some are four, but I don’t really see a difference between four versus five classes anyway,” senior Juliana Krampf said. “I feel like you could handle the extra course since a lot of students overload already. But again, I feel like I’m a bit biased because I’m used to taking five classes, and I feel like I still get the same experience out of each course.”
No matter the opinion, the four credit system makes sense if the College’s number one priority is to help students focus on their classes, but it gets a bit tricky when one becomes aware of the rather large disparity between class meeting times.
As many students have come to realize, courses can range from meeting once a week to three times a week, with most meeting twice a week.
“The minimum for credit hours is 50 minutes, but it can go to 60. It’s up to the instructor to decide what is best for the class,” Newsome said.
So it seems to me that the class meeting times are left to the faculties discretion. But with this a bigger question arises in my mind: what exactly does a “credit” equal?
The College’s course catalog defines a credit hour as “a unit of curricular material that normally can be taught in a minimum of 14 hours of classroom instruction plus appropriate outside preparation or the equivalent as determined by the faculty.”
This definition sheds light on why professors have such leeway with their class times, giving them the ability to make sure students are getting the in-class time they need to succeed.
This helps to make sure students are in class for no longer or shorter than they need to be. Hopefully, the discretion in terms of credits allows them the time needed for outside of class assignments and extracurriculars.
Newsome also assured that each course goes through a rigorous process in order to make sure students are getting the most out of their courses.
However, there seems to be a slight disadvantage in this system for those students transferring to Etown.
Senior Cortland Jacoby recalls a friend of hers who transferred in her junior year, receiving only 58 credits in return, leaving her just below the junior level, which is 60 credits.
“I’ve heard transfer students talk about it before, and I understand where they’re coming from. It may not always happen, but I feel like that leaves a lot of transfers at a disadvantage regardless when they have to tally up their credits to graduate,” Jacoby said.
Newsome, however, assured that students with this problem are a very rare exception.
“The courses from other colleges transfer as courses and typically folks have the minimum they need,” he said.
So, when it comes down to it, is the four credit system superior to the three? I honestly can’t say.
What I can say is that the College does its best to work with the students and make sure they are getting the education they need to achieve great things after graduation.
Does that mean having to work a bit closer with transfer students, ensuring that they graduate on time and are able to register with their respective class? I would hope so since the Etown, I know, works very hard to make sure every student is getting the education they need.
To me, the four credit system seems to be a good way to make that goal come true.