A call to reform the course-dropping period for students
Students and classes do not always make the best match. Regardless of reasons, the ability to drop a class without academic penalty is incredibly valuable.
Salisbury University will eventually record withdrawal from a class on a student’s transcript. However, this is after an amount of time specified in the academic calendar for students to drop classes without consequence.
For the Spring 2021 Semester, the drop period was from Monday, Jan. 25 through Friday, Jan. 29. This allotted week period has been present since I joined the SU community for the Fall 2019 Semester.
This is not an adequate amount of time for students to decide whether to pull the plug on a course.
One academic week only allows students to experience two sessions of a class. Furthermore, the first week of a semester does not represent a course’s workload or dynamic going forward.
The first day is often spent reviewing the syllabus. The second may cover class material, but does not allow a student to fully evaluate workload and dynamics with the professor.
Virtual learning due to COVID-19 further disconnects students from their perceptions of a class.
However, there may be a solution already in use at other universities.
At Harvard University, there is a “shopping period” for classes which “allows students to explore a broader number of courses and make final enrollment decisions based on personal experience," according to The Daily Pennsylvanian.
This period can last up to two weeks, giving students more time to give classes a trial run. However, there are some downsides.
Students often exit and enter classes at random times during this period, causing a disruptive atmosphere.
Professors are hesitant to begin covering course material when they are uncertain of who will remain in classes after the shopping period is over.
Ironically, these consequences lead to a more inaccurate representation of courses for most of the semester.
Perhaps there is a solution that involves a variation of Harvard's shopping period.
There should be an allotted period, at least two weeks long, separate from the remainder of the semester. A curated curriculum for this time would mimic the day-to-day workload and general teaching style of the course.
Unlike the option at Harvard University, students at SU’s shopping period would not be able to disrupt the classroom atmosphere by leaving and entering a class at will.
When the class trial concludes, the actual course curriculum would begin with the students who decide not to drop.
Further details and ideas for a structured class trial period at SU can be decided upon later. For now, I implore the Office of the Registrar to seriously consider this opportunity for students to better evaluate their academic experience.
By JACOB BEAVER
Featured photo by Brad Boardman.