Policy and planning committee
Report of the Arts and Sciences Classroom Committee
Committee Members: Jean Howard, Chair, English; Kay Achar, Political Science; Arnold Aronson, School of the Arts; John Carter, Registrar; Patricia Culligan, Engineering; Bill Dellinger, German; George Deodatis, Engineering; Dave Dewhurst, Facilities; David Etherton, CUIT; Robert Furno, Registrar’s Office; Angela Haddad, Barnard College; Richard Korb, German; Karen Krahulik, SIPA; Mildred Kramer-Garcia, Astronomy; Rob Lieberman, SIPA; Bentley Macleod, Economics; Ann McDermott, Chemistry; David Madigan, Statistics; Susan Mescher, Deputy Vice President for Strategic Planning, Arts and Sciences; Steven Mintz, Director, GSAS Teaching Center; Wayne Proudfoot, Religion; Laurie Schaffler, Registration and Financial Services; Brady Sloan, Registrar’s Office; Pamela Smith, History; Jack Snyder, Political Science; Kathryn Yatrakis, Senior Associate Vice President for Arts and Sciences
Committee Staff: Lucy Drotning, Associate Provost and Director of Institutional Research; Mia Mendicino, Columbia College Research; Rose Razaghian, Arts and Sciences and Columbia College Research; Tom McNamee, Associate Director of Academic Affairs, Arts and Sciences
Charge to the Committee
Following on from the work of the Krauss Morningside Classroom Committee of just over a decade ago, the subcommittee will evaluate the current adequacy of classroom spaces to meet Arts and Sciences instructional needs. It will make recommendations for the improvement of these spaces as well as of the scheduling process through which they are allocated.
The work of the subcommittee will include an assessment of the physical condition of the classrooms, their ability to support technological (and other instructional) needs, and the match between demand for classrooms of particular sizes (including classrooms holding more than one hundred students) and availability. In addition, the subcommittee will examine scheduling issues surrounding Arts and Science classrooms, including ways to alleviate the scarcity of classrooms (or particular kinds of classrooms) at times of heavy use. This will include attention to present policy governing encumbered classrooms, as well as possible changes in the days and times classes are scheduled or in the way in which scheduling is done by the registrar and by departments.
After reviewing the 1998 Krauss Morningside Classroom Committee Report and undertaking extensive new data collection, the current Classroom Committee identified an array of problems involving the electronic capabilities, the number, and the scheduling and assignment of Arts and Sciences classrooms under the Registrar’s control. Principal among these problems are: (1) too few electronic classrooms; (2) demand for classrooms outpacing supply, especially at peak hours from 10 to 4 Monday to Thursday; (3) departments’ continuing failure to schedule classes across the full range of possible days and times, including minimal use of Fridays for classroom instruction; (4) challenges posed by the large number of encumbered classrooms (those in the Registrar’s stock but in which departments schedule their own classes before releasing unused times to the Registrar) to the Registrar’s efficient assignment of rooms, especially in regard to the eleven rooms in the current Registrar’s stock with a seating capacity in excess of one hundred students; (5) the poor condition of a few classrooms, most notably Havemeyer 309, and the poor condition and small number of Arts and Science teaching laboratory spaces; (6) failure to monitor the implementation and assess the effectiveness of past recommendations governing classroom use and to coordinate the work of the various entities, from CUIT to the Office of Academic Planning, and the Office of the Deputy Vice President for Strategic Planning, that have a role in how classrooms are maintained, outfitted, scheduled, and assigned so that efficiencies can be achieved, classroom needs built into future budgets, and emerging problems managed as they appear.
The Committee’s chief recommendations for alleviating these problems include: (1) by summer of 2012 equip all Registrar classrooms with appropriate electronic equipment; (2) convert some science library space vacated by the move to the Northwest Corner Building to teaching space, both teaching labs and large classrooms; (3) change the schedule of classes to allow two more lecture periods to be scheduled in each teaching day and to allow fifteen minute breaks between classes; (4) encourage better use of Fridays for specific instructional purposes; (5) help departments schedule classes across the full range of available time slots by requiring departments to follow new Guidelines for Class Scheduling and monitoring compliance and by making improvements in the Curricular Planning Statement (CPS); (6) give the Registrar enhanced authority over encumbered classrooms, especially over the ten holding more than one hundred students; (7) set up an oversight committee to monitor and coordinate implementation of these recommendations, to assess their effectiveness, and to plan and make budget recommendations for future enhancements and use of our classroom resources.
As a result, this Classroom Committee was appointed and worked from March to December of 2010 to execute the charge given to it. The committee was large because the needs of different divisions and departments differ considerably, and recommendations were vetted and then re-vetted to determine which would have the most benefit for the Arts and Sciences and for the community as a whole and cause the fewest negative consequences. Our work depended heavily on the collection of accurate data about a wide range of issues from times of peak use of classrooms to seat utilization of different kinds of rooms (seminars, small lectures, large lectures). The Committee was extremely fortunate to have extraordinary help with this voluminous data collection task from Lucy Drotning, Norberto Govin, Mia Mendicino, and Rose Razaghian, without whose tenacity and skill the committee would not have been able to do its work with confidence. What follows is our report and a small selection of the data that supports our major conclusions. (For a list of the data reports requested and completed during the course of the committee’s work, see Appendix 1.)
II.The Krauss Report
Still, it is not insignificant that classrooms are now in better physical repair than twelve years ago; that classes are no longer being put in “off-schedule” time slots; that the drop period has been shortened; and that some progress has been made in getting departments to report the use of sequestered rooms and to improve utilization of encumbered rooms.
In response to our review of the Krauss report, our committee made two immediate recommendations: (1) That in order to sustain the marked improvements in the physical state of Arts and Science classrooms in the wake of the Krauss report, that the budgets for maintenance of registrar classrooms and furniture replacement be kept at levels commensurate with or better than those in place in 2008-09. Backsliding in this area is unacceptable. It undermines the morale of everyone who teaches and learns in our classrooms. (2) That every semester the information concerning the state of classrooms supplied on student course evaluations be systematically compiled and sent to the person within Facilities charged with overseeing classroom maintenance. That person will, in turn, report each semester to the Deputy Vice President for Strategic Planning in Arts and Sciences the steps taken to ameliorate the problems that have been identified. Other issues raised by the Krauss report needing further attention will be addressed below.
Throughout what follows we have been sensitive to the need to attend to issues of implementation and assessment of our recommendations. That the Krauss Report was only partially implemented suggests the importance of putting in place a structure for insuring more robust and comprehensive implementation this time around. Consequently, (3) we recommend that the small standing committee described at the conclusion of this report, along with the Deputy Vice President for Strategic Planning, have responsibility for coordinating implementation of all recommendations contained in this report in consultation and cooperation with appropriate other parties.
III. Electronic Classrooms
To use the money available for electronic classroom conversion wisely and in areas of highest priority, the Classroom Committee (1) consulted with the Registrar about the kind of rooms (seminars, small and large lecture halls) most often requested for electronic use; (2) conducted a survey of all instructors who had used electronic rooms in the last several years to find out what kind of equipment they most needed; (3) met several times with representatives from CUIT to discuss the kind of electronic podium that would best satisfy faculty needs at the lowest cost and with the least intrusiveness, especially in the smaller classrooms. The data collection was instructive. Most faculty do not want to bring their own computers to class; they want a computer already installed in the classroom. Only a tiny fraction of faculty use document readers, one of the most expensive features of the biggest e-podiums. Language instructors need specific DVD players with multi-regional capacities so that they can use materials produced in many foreign countries. After a lengthy set of consultations, the Committee recommended that the Deputy Vice President for Strategic Planning, Sue Mescher, work with CUIT to convert up to 25 classrooms over the summer, most of them in Hamilton, Kent, IAB and Pupin, and install an agreed-upon complement of equipment at somewhat lower cost than the equipment previously installed. Arts and Sciences provided additional funding to make the conversions possible. In the end, 16 classrooms were finished in time for the start of classes in the fall of 2010; 7 more are slated to be completed over the 2010-11 winter break, including rooms in Math, Pupin, and Fayerweather (see Appendix 2).
The Classroom Committee recognizes that making a basic suite of electronic supports available in every classroom is only the first of many steps that the university must undertake to meet emerging needs in the area of digital instruction. Smart boards, clickers, and the capacity to web conference with classrooms in other locations are only a handful of the most frequently mentioned enhancements that many faculty want. Consequently, we recommend a two-step approach encapsulated in the following recommendations: (4) that by summer of 2012 all Arts and Science classrooms be equipped with a basic suite of electronic supports including computer podium, projector, screen, and multi-regional dvd players and that more elaborate electronic supports be installed in large lecture halls and other special-use rooms as needed; (5) that a small standing committee composed of members of the Arts and Science faculty, CUIT, the GSAS Center for Teaching, and the Center for New Media, Teaching, and Learning be appointed to explore emerging technology that would support the pedagogical needs and ambitions of the faculty and would make recommendations on an ongoing basis to the Executive Vice President and the Deputy Vice President for Strategic Planning for Arts and Sciences for additional electronic enhancements to specific classrooms or types of classrooms.
IV.The Over-crowding Problem
Confirming our findings, the Registrar underscored that identifying classrooms for the biggest classes remains the most intractable problem, partly because of the 11 registrar rooms that will hold 100 people or more, 10 are encumbered (meaning that departments have the right to schedule their classes there first before turning over unused segments of time to the Registrar).
In what follows, we will be examining the various strategies that Arts and Sciences can use to ameliorate classroom over-crowding and scheduling problems. They boil down to four basic possibilities: (1) increase classroom stock; (2) increase the number of times existing stock can be scheduled for use, which means addressing the Schedule of Classes; (3) change the way departments schedule classes to alleviate some of the clumping at peak hours; (4) increase the Registrar’s powers, including control over encumbered classrooms to increase efficiency of use of those resources. We will attend to each option in turn, explaining why we have chosen as we have.
V. A Global Look at the Classroom Situation in Arts and Sciences
If we turn to rooms in the Registrar’s stock during the period 1998 to 2010, we find that 22 rooms were removed from the pool during that period, including a number in Lewisohn and Engineering Terrace. 34 rooms were added to the Registrar’s stock, most of them classrooms that had been under the control of departments who gave them to the Registrar in exchange for renovations. They do not, therefore, actually signal an increase in the teaching space available within Arts and Sciences. Genuinely new rooms added to Registrar stock include 7 in Knox Hall, ranging in size from a capacity of 10 students to a capacity of 36; two seminar rooms in 80 Claremont Avenue; and one room holding 24 students in Broadway Residence Hall. When fully operational, the Northwest Corner building will bring one large classroom (capacity of 165 students) and one small classroom (capacity of 30 to 35 students) into the Registrar’s stock. When all the changes are tallied, the registrar controlled 120 rooms in 1998 and 132 in 2010.
It is important to note, however, that most of the rooms added to the Registrar stock were either small (capacity of under 30) or very large classrooms that had formerly been under departmental control and therefore had already been used for instructional purposes. Of those large rooms, a number need significant renovation in order to be effective classroom spaces. For instance, 309 Havemeyer needs extensive acoustical improvements in order to function well as a large classroom. Other large rooms need better blackboards and other improvements. Those rooms going out of the Registrar’s control included a number of mid-size lecture rooms, holding between 30-100 students. Classrooms lost to Registrar control were primarily converted into faculty offices in departments in which overcrowding was acute or where programs, such as Continuing Education, required rooms for their own needs and took them from Registrar stock.
The bottom line is that we are still faced with an acute shortage of rooms for classes at some times of day and especially for classes with enrollments over 100 students as class enrollments have continued to increase, often in introductory courses required for majors. It is notable that except for one room in the Northwest Corner building, no large classrooms, those holding 100 or more students, were created during this period, though finding rooms for big classes remains the most pressing problem the Registrar faces every semester.
It is clear that until new buildings open on the Manhattanville campus and some units, such as the Business School, move north of 125th Street, classroom space is going to continue to be a premium on the Morningside campus. With significant relief at least seven years in the future, and with enrollments growing and programs expanding in many Arts and Science units (especially Continuing Education, Columbia College, GS, and the MAO programs of GSAS), demand will continue to outpace supply in ways that will damage the educational enterprise unless Arts and Sciences takes major steps to rationalize the use of the stock it has and to carve out new classroom space within existing buildings whenever the opportunity arises.
V.The Schedule of Classes
The committee agreed that a better option was to take a fresh look at the schedule of classes. Because of the vagaries of past institutional history, Columbia has not scheduled lectures across the noon break and has also allowed overlap in lecture slots. By taking away that break in the schedule, removing any overlaps, and beginning lectures at 8:40 in the morning, it is possible to add two more lecture periods to every day and still have the last class end, as it does now, at 10 P.M. Having two class periods that meet after 6 P.M. is especially important to schools such as Continuing Education and SIPA that have large numbers of working students and adjunct faculty. In addition, with this new schedule it is possible to have fifteen rather than ten minute breaks between every class, lessening, we hope, the need for students to arrive late to class and to interrupt class for bathroom breaks. With some classes scheduled as far away as Knox, the fifteen minute gap between classes seems increasingly essential. Start times for seminars and language classes have been adjusted to allow students to transition as smoothly as possible between various types of classes. The number of seminars and language classes has remained the same except that language sections have been extended later on Friday afternoons (see Appendix 4 – Current Master Schedule of Classes – and Appendix 5 – Revised Schedule of Classes).
At least for now, this seems the most painless way to make more classroom slots available to use for lectures. Consequently, we recommend that (7) in order to increase the number of class periods available each day, and therefore to enhance room utilization, Arts and Sciences adopt a new schedule of classes, in which 9 75-minutes lecture periods will be available each day, starting at 8:40 A.M. and ending at 9:55 P.M., with fifteen minutes intervals between classes. This will increase by two the number of lecture periods available in any given day. Seminars and language courses will be scheduled as indicated to coordinate with the new lecture schedule.
In addition, (8) if after three years from the implementation of the other recommendations in this report, the pressure to find rooms for large lecture classes (those enrolling over 100 students) has not eased, that Arts and Sciences experiment with moving some big lectures to a Tuesday/Friday and Wednesday/Friday schedule, thereby increasing the number of classes that can be scheduled in such rooms every week.
The Classroom Committee also felt that Arts and Sciences should make modestly greater use of Fridays for other kinds of instruction. In particular, the number of small seminars meeting on Fridays could be increased by drawing on faculty who are willing to teach on that day; and the number of recitation and discussion sections meeting then could also be augmented. Graduate students frequently lead discussion sections, and teaching those on Friday, when few of their own seminars are scheduled, would lessen the conflicts that arise in some departments between the grad students’ own classes and his or her teaching assignments. It is a particular difficulty at Columbia, discussed at length within the Classroom Committee, that for many big lectures, recitation and discussion sections are scheduled only after classes have begun and not when students register for the class. Often, faculty report, it takes up to a month to stabilize sections and to find rooms in which they can meet. By regularly scheduling some of those sections on Friday, it would be possible to increase the number of classes for which students register for the class and the section simultaneously and in advance.
Consequently, we recommend that (9) in order to relieve pressure on classrooms, Arts and Sciences encourage a more robust use of Fridays for classroom instruction. In particular, we recommend that each department schedule at least 10% of its graduate and/or undergraduate seminars on Friday, excepting only courses required for the major or for the degree. Further, that (10) in order to encourage a more robust use of Friday for classroom instruction and to make it easier for lecture courses to enroll students in a timely manner in required discussion and recitation sections, departments that do not currently have students register for a section when they register for the course will begin to move to a system of doing so. The process will begin with those courses that have well-established predictable enrollments. As far as possible, departments will submit section times on the Curricular Planning Statement (CPS) when they schedule the course. The majority of these discussion sections should be scheduled on Fridays. Students in such courses must register for a section when they register for the course. After enrollment, departments may need to shift sections to accommodate unexpected enrollment numbers or TA and student needs, and this will be worked out between the department and the Registrar. For new courses that do not yet have predictable enrollments, departments will simply indicate on the CPS that students must enroll in a discussion section. For these courses, enrollments in sections for the first two years will proceed as they have in the past. Eventually, we expect that all students will be able to register for sections at the same time they register for courses. At this point, this is a trial program that will be evaluated in three years.
VI. Department Scheduling Procedures
The second recommendation is aimed at reducing the problem of “clumping” or scheduling too many classes in a single timeslot. By spreading classes out across the full range of times and days, departments increase efficient utilization of classroom space and also make it easier for their students to avoid conflicts between one departmental course and another. Consequently, we recommend that (12) in order to reduce the problem of clumping, that is, departments offering their classes in a narrow band of days and times, that the “Guidelines for Class Scheduling” (see Appendix 6) be followed as fully as possible when departments submit each semester’s courses to the Registrar, including on the CPS, and when they subsequently submit changes and additions. Responsibility for checking departmental submissions and for adjudicating exceptions will rest with the Deputy Vice President for Strategic Planning.
In addition, it became clear to us in talking with ADAs, whom we surveyed over the summer, that some changes would be helpful simply in the way class schedules are submitted. Each fall every department sends to the Registrar its class schedule for both semesters of the next academic year. The spring schedule is more notional, usually, than the fall schedule. Departments submit the schedule on the CPS, sending ensuing changes both to the Associate Vice President of Academic Planning in the Executive Vice President’s office and to the Registrar. The CPS is used for many purposes and it should be changed cautiously. However, the Classroom Committee looked at a range of small changes that would make the CPS a more useful tool for ADAs or those who do a department’s scheduling. For example, if drop-down boxes could be added throughout the document, it would encourage standardization of data entry and eventually allow scheduling data to be rolled directly into the registrar’s system and eliminate time-consuming and error-prone hand data re-entry. Consequently, we recommend that (13) the CPS be refined to achieve several desired outcomes, namely: by the use of drop-down menus to standardize submission so that data from departments can roll directly into the Registrar’s systems without hand data entry (thus reducing mistakes and saving time); by the addition of sorting devices as well as automated reports to allow departments easily to determine their compliance with the “Guidelines for Class Scheduling”; by allowing for department customization to make it possible for departments to use the CPS to see how their curriculum maps onto the department’s own requirements for the major, for Core contributions, etc. The Classroom Committee has seen prototypes of a refined CPS and vetted them with a select group of ADAs as well as received feedback on the suggestions from the Associate Vice President for Academic Planning. Care will have to be taken to continue vetting the proposed changes and to implementing them after full training has occurred.
VII.Enhancing the Registrar’s Powers
Discussion of this issue arose in relationship to sequestered and encumbered rooms. Should departments have proprietary rights in rooms? Or should all of them be under Registrar control? After considerable discussion and data collection, the Classroom Committee feels strongly that Departments do need to have at least one or two small rooms at their disposal in which to schedule committee meetings, seminars, talks, student gatherings, etc. We finally were able, with the help of the research staff, to get a list of what we believe to be all sequestered rooms in Arts and Sciences departments. Most departments have only one or two such rooms. In every case in which departments have more, they have good reasons for the greater degree of sequestration, including the fact that some rooms house live animals; some house expensive and specialized equipment that cannot be sufficiently secured to allow open access. There seems no reason to interfere with existing practice in regard to sequestered rooms except that (14) in order to allow tracking of all classes offered to our students, and when and where these classes took place, that departments each semester submit to the Registrar a record of classes, teaching labs, and discussion/recitation sections scheduled by them in sequestered classrooms. 60% of departments already do this; we would like to see 100% compliance. This also would allow us to be in compliance with the guidelines established by the Emergency Classroom Committee mandating that the university be able to supply to the fire department a complete list of rooms being used for instructional purposes in any campus building at all times of the day.
Total Number of Registrar Rooms 132
To the surprise of the committee, analysis of the seat utilization (i.e. the % of available seats used in a classroom) of all encumbered rooms did not show significant differences from use of non-encumbered rooms, except for those holding over 100 students. Here we found some under-utilization. This is significant because there are only 11 such rooms in the Registrar stock, 10 of which are encumbered.
We found that for those rooms seating 100 students or more, the encumbering department utilized 60% of seats for 34% of their classes, while other classes utilized 60% of seats for 56% of their classes. The data indicates that some departments are scheduling relatively small classes in big encumbered rooms. The Chair of the Classroom Committee and the Deputy Vice President for Strategic Planning are meeting with the Chairs of the departments that control these rooms and with their scheduling staff in order to go over the data and urge a more careful use of these big rooms. We do feel that it is important, however, to allow the Registrar to make changes as warranted in the use of encumbered rooms, being attentive always to the needs of departments, but putting the collective good above individual interest. Therefore, we recommend that (15) To achieve efficiencies in scheduling, classes with smaller enrollments may be moved at the Registrar’s discretion out of classrooms needed to accommodate classes with larger enrollments, particularly those with enrollments over one hundred students and including rooms encumbered by departments, provided always that a comparable room can be found for the smaller class.
List of Appendices
1. Supplemental Note: Overview of Supporting Data Analysis
Appendices can be found here.