Fall Semester scheduling brings reality of Q2S transition to OU students

On May 14, Ohio University students began registering for fall classes. Although registration appeared routine, it bore one very important difference from quarters past. Students were no longer registering for quarters. Beginning in August of 2012, OU will operate on a semester calendar.

Ohio University has been actively preparing students since the fall for the quarters to semesters transition. Click the image to view this brochure. (Photo Credit – Nicole H. Germano)

The transition will not only bring changes to OU students’ academic calendar, graduation requirements and fest season, it will alter their curriculum.

The OU Board of Trustees approved the transition to semesters in October 2008 after state officials urged all public universities to make the change. Since 2008, the university has been planning for the transition process. OU has been on the quarter system since the late 1960s when it switched from semesters to quarters.

Dr. Robert Stewart, Director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism said that the university first notified him of the change about three years ago, allowing plenty of time for the journalism school to adjust its requirements. The E.W. Scripps School of Journalism took advantage of the semesters switch as an opportunity to adjust its curriculum to better fit the evolving industry.

“When we knew we were switching to semesters, once it became crystal clear that the university was going to make this change, we realized that this was really an opportunity to do a substantial top to bottom overhaul,” said Stewart.

“If we had not switched to semesters, I doubt we would have taken on the change with the scale of change that we took on with the change to semesters,” he said, noting the difficulty of the process. “It’s almost like changing the languages that you speak. It feels almost that fundamental. It’s saying ‘from now on we are going to speak Chinese.”

However, the school of journalism was not the only group to make important changes. As Stewart noted, on a semester system, students take fewer classes and fewer overall hours. As a result, all colleges and majors needed to make adjustments.

The graph compares the number of courses offered in several programs across colleges of study at Ohio University between Fall Quarter 201-2012 and Fall Semester 2012-2013. Under semesters, students are required to take fewer courses.

Student Resources

Angela Lash is the Assistant Director of the Allen Student Help Center, the hub for Q2S questions. Since the 2011 fall, the Allen Student Help Center has branded itself as the resource for Q2S concerns and has helped many students through the process.

Lash said that she has seen students of all ages from all colleges about the transition. She did not notice any recurring major issues, nor did she think that students from a particular college or major brought the most concerns. However, first year students and underclassmen have been more likely to visit the Allen Student Help Center about the transition. Lash explained that this trend is normal, as the help center is primarily a resource for first year students and for students with undeclared majors or who are applying for a major.

The Allen Student Help Center has mostly answered “simple questions about the impact of the transition” said Lash. These questions include: changes to credit hours; curriculum changes; class times and schedules, especially the increased regularity of Friday classes; and accessing both the old and new catalogs. When faced with more complex questions, Lash said the center would answer as many concerns as possible, but would be sure to refer students to the “experts,” their regular advisors and transition advisors.

As students have come to the help center with concerns, advisors always start by asking she students an important question: Have you completed your TDCP?

OU requires all students to complete the Transition to Degree Completion Plan (TDCP). The plan maps students’ academic requirements to ensure that they will be able to graduate “on time.” All current freshmen, sophomores and juniors were required to complete the plan by May 1. Seniors planning to graduate in June also had to meet with their advisors and sign a form declaring that they would complete their degrees before the switch.

As the Allen Student Help Center looks to the fall, Lash predicts she will encounter many of the same questions as this spring, especially those regarding adding and dropping classes. She advises students to continue reading their emails and to pay attention to official university communication as the transition progresses. Students are always encouraged to visit the Q2S website, where the university has compiled its resources to help students through the change and to answer their questions.

Student Perspectives

Giovanna DelGarbino, a sophomore studying Strategic Communication in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, joked that the semester transition ruined her life.

“Not, really. Everything I needed I was able to get done,” she said.

Transition aside, the Youngstown native looks forward to the semester calendar.

“I’m excited to be on semesters, to be on the same schedule as other schools and to have less stress and so many classes a year. At the same time, the stress of switching is overwhelming,” said DelGarbino, who thinks the transition has been as tough on advisors as it has been students.

During her advising process, DelGarbino felt that her advisor was extremely helpful, just not prepared to answer all of her questions.

“I felt as if the process to get the answers to my questions was a chain of reactions from the higher-level people at Scripps to the lower-level people,” she said.

DelGarbino began preparing for the transition as soon as she was accepted into the journalism school at the beginning of Winter Quarter 2012. She expects to have to take summer classes or stay an extra semester to finish her education. But, DelGarbino doesn’t blame the journalism school for the delay. She also plans to earn a business minor, and attributes her delay to changes from the College of Business.

College of Business student Matthew Witten, however, has had a positive experience with his college. Witten is pursuing dual degrees in Business Marketing and Sports Management with a Business Minor, and says that his school has been extremely flexible and willing to work with him.

When Witten began his studies, the Sports Management degree was house outside of the College of Business. Because he dedicated so much time to completing two degrees, the College of Business will grant Witten two separate degrees when he graduates in May 2013.

Witten does not know if the decision to realign of the majors relates to the transition.

With the transition, few of Witten’s requirements changed. Although he personally found the transition easy, he can identify a major source of frustration. Witten said that the College of Business is reducing its hour requirements to correspond with the semester plan, but he feels it has not significantly reduced the number of classes.

“It feels like they focused so much on credit hour requirement that they forgot it’s harder to fit in all the classes.”

Witten may have had the option to graduate early at the end of winter quarter had the university not switched to semesters. Now, he will graduate on time.

Like Witten, junior Mo Farunia has had positive experiences transitioning with his college, the College of Health Sciences and Professions. The Health Services Administration major transferred from a community college to the Athens campus in the fall of 2011.

He said that his advisor has helped him prepare for the change since the beginning.

“He’s working with me very close about which classes to get done now, what might be only offered in the fall and only in the spring.”

Overall, Farunia says his professors have been wiling to write pinkslips and his college has been flexible with requirements to ensure that no student is delayed because of the transition.

The start of scheduling marked the reality of the Q2S transition for many students. As August approaches, so too will the challenges and changes of the semester transition.

Dr. Robert Stewart, E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Director, explains the department’s process of revising the curriculum for the semester change.


Critique 8

Recently, while on The New York Times website, I discovered a page providing Twitter handles of The New York Times reporters. I currently follow many sections of The New York Times, and I was excited to connect with the writers I enjoy. However, when I returned to the website, I could no longer find the page, nor were my search results (for it) fruitful.

That experience highlights the area I believe The New York Times is weakest. Although the website provides many opportunities to share stories through social media, The New York Times does a poor job directing readers to its social media.

Each section of the paper has its own Twitter handle, yet readers cannot easily find a list of these handles on the website. (If such a page exists, I have not yet been able to find it.) When you search for The New York Times on Twitter, the numerous Twitter handles are not streamlined. The New York Post and New York Magazine interrupt the list of The New York Times handles. Although most of the profile photos and descriptions are consistent, they are not all the same. In fact, the unofficial Twitter handle for food and dining appears before the official one. Twitter’s search algorithm might be responsible for these search difficulties; however, The New York Times might be more successful in gaining followers if they adapted to the search algorithm or provide readers with a clear list of its handles.

The New York Times also has several Facebook pages (also divided by section). The paper does a poor job promoting these pages. For example, The New York Times has been my preferred news outlet for several years now, and I just recently liked the page.

The New York Times primarily directs readers to its social media through side bars next to online stories. I believe the paper could be more successful if it provided a link on its homepage allowing readers to connect with its various media. Nevertheless, I do acknowledge that there may be a financial motivation for this. Readers can obtain news “for free” through social media; they may only view ten monthly articles free online. Encouraging social media may indirectly discourage subscriptions. Nevertheless, with the ongoing growth of social media, I believe that encouraging them will benefit the paper more than the alternative.

Alcohol-related arrests rise at Ohio University campus

From 2008 to 2010 the number of Ohio University police department liquor law arrests in on-campus residential areas increased, according to the 2011 Clery Act Compliance Report. Despite that increase, liquor law violations referred for disciplinary action decreased.

Liquor Law Arrests and Liquor Law Violations Referred for Disciplinary Action
Between 2008 and 2010, the Ohio University Police Department arrests for liquor law violations increased while its referrals for disciplinary action for liquor law violations decreased.

In 2008, the OUPD arrested 37 individuals for violations of the liquor law and referred 72 individuals for disciplinary action. The following year, arrests increased to 76 and referrals decreased to one. The police arrested 101 individuals, but made no referrals in 2010.

Although arrests have increased, the total number if OUPD liquor arrests and referrals has remained similar, indicating a possible change in policy.

The Cleary Act Compliance Report defines liquor law violations as “the violations of laws or ordinances prohibiting: the manufacture, sale, transporting, furnishing, possession of intoxicating   liquor, maintaining unlawful drinking places; bootlegging; operating a still; furnishing liquor to a minor or intemperate person; using a vehicle for illegal transportation of liquor, drinking on a train or public conveyance; and all attempts to commit any of the aforementioned.” The report does not define liquor law violations referred for disciplinary action.

Each year, colleges and universities that provide federal aid must compile and share its crime statistics according to the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act and the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

Critique 7

After the uproar the most recent edition of Time Magazine incited, I was curious to see what The New York Times reported on the issue. After scrolling through tweets from the past week and browsing articles in the related sections, I finally opted to search for related stories using the somewhat-inconspicuously located search bar at the top of the page.

Much to my surprise, I did not find an article specifically about the story or reactions to it. Because of The New York Times’ clean design and user friendliness, I feel confident that I did not miss the story – rather, it has not yet been written.

Fortunately, my search results drew me to one of The New York Times blogs, an area I have not yet explored. I selected a Monday post from Motherlode. I really enjoyed this section, and I will definitely return to the blogs (especially if I cave an purchase a subscription).

Compared to many of the bloggers (not affiliated with The New York Times) I read regularly, Motherlode had fewer advertisements. The post had several links. Although the number of links bordered the fine line of “too many,” they linked to great supporting information. A toolbar allowed me to scroll between ‘previous’ and ‘next’ posts. Other featured posts and “comments of the moment” were also clearly displayed. I especially loved that comments section. Additional comments appeared at the bottom of the post. Readers also had several opportunities to browse related posts.

However, my favorite part of the blog was the “About Motherlode” section. I enjoyed reading about the blog and one of the primary Motherlode bloggers. I think it is important that blog readers can find the background of their bloggers. Because blogs reflect personal experiences, background is necessary to evaluate the source. Although the blog lacked The New York Times signature toolbox of sharing options, ample opportunities to Tweet, Facebook and share existed.

Critique 6

The New York Times further enhances its status as a leader in media with its video page. The video library allows readers to consume the news, of a variety of topics, with both visual and audio.

That page, available through the third tab at the top of the home page, resembles The New York Times’ home page. Along the top and along the side of the page, readers can guide their experiences by selecting their topic; a lead video appears front and center; and, options to view most popular videos and select by topic are available throughout the page. The video homepage distinguishes itself with a black background.

Upon accessing the homepage, without clicking, the lead (also the “most recent” video) video begins playing. (Although I think this is an interesting way to attract viewers I can’t help but worry that it counts toward my 10 monthly articles).

As with online stories, the video is easy to share ­– a toolbar sits beneath the video with options to post via Twitter, LinkedIn and email, though surprisingly not to share via Facebook.

As viewers begin to select videos, they will find the page format remains consistent. Immediately below the video, The New York Times provides a caption, notes if the video relates to an article and reveals the videos producer(s).

Overall, the video experience was easy to share, navigate and enjoy. (I especially love that the tabs are exactly the same as the homepage, indicating I can find videos of my favorite sections – health, food and arts). The only noticeable red-flag was the length of today’s most recent video. It was more than 15 minutes long! (Regardless of the depth, I doubt anyone has the attention span to watch it all). Even ads were even minimized in this likely high-traffic area.

Well done!

Mothers’ day arrives early for Bobcats

In the United States, families around the country celebrate their mothers on the second weekend in May. Students at Ohio University couldn’t wait that long.

OU celebrated “Moms’ Weekend” Friday through Sunday. Moms’ Weekend, one of several family-oriented weekends at OU, invites students’ mothers to campus for three days of bonding events. Annually, Mom’s Weekend is one of the most popular weekends on campus.

This year, the university offered guest rooms in Bromley Hall and Foster House, all of which sold out before the weekend began. While many moms stayed with their children, others chose to stay at the hotels in Athens and the surrounding community.

Bobcats and their moms remained busy off campus, filling local businesses, restaurants and bars. Students could also take their mothers to spring athletic games or some of the many events sponsored by student groups. The Fashion Associates Moms Weekend Fashion Show, University Programming Council’s Moms Walk for the Cure and Moms Market were among the bigger events. A complete list of events is available on the OU website.

UPC hosted its 12th annual Moms Walk for the Cure to benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation on Saturday. Despite the rain, the event was well attended. During the hour and a half leading up to the walk, UPC offered raffles, entertainment and guest speakers at the Charles J. Ping Recreation Center. Women in Philanthropy provided breakfast, and Title IX and Tap Cats performed at the Moms Walk for the Cure as well as at the Moms Weekend Fashion Show.

Also available at Ping was the Moms Market, where local vendors sold crafts, jewelry and more from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturday, allowing visitors to stop in around other events. Visitors could also enjoy lunch, catered by The Pigskin Bar and Grill, at the market.

Note: Updates and video to come.

Critique 5

Despite limiting the number of articles unsubscribed readers can view monthly, The New York Times does not limit views of its homepage. Fortunately for readers, the homepage is packed with information.

Readers are directed to the “global edition” page “with the International Herald Tribune” when they access http://www.nytimes.com. The page reads similarly to a printed paper. The New York Times displays its banner across the top and offers a picture, a large headline and columns of text. However, unlike a printed paper, instead of listing full stories, The New York Times lists several headlines (which are links) and the first few lines of a lead to a story in those columns.

In addition to clicking on appealing headlines, readers can direct their experience by using tabs. Along the top of the page, readers can choose to view the homepage, the day’s paper, videos or the most popular stories. They can further specify their interests by using taps along the left side of the page, where they can view stories by categories including region and topic (what would be sections in traditional papers). At the bottom of the page, readers can scroll through The New York Times’ blogs.

The New York Times succeeds with their homepage. It allows readers to directly control their experience, while still driving them to the most important stories. Fonts, colors and other artistic elements remain consistent throughout the page, further easing the reading experience. One of the few disadvantages to the page, is the wealth of information offered. Readers are unable to absorb all the information on the homepage, as The New York Times includes headlines to more than 10 stories. Few opportunities to share directly from the homepage exist (though they are easily accessible once an article is selected).

Nevertheless, allowing the viewer flexibility while providing diverse and newsworthy information are among the most important aspects of online journalism, and The New York Times succeeds there.