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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Academics & Research

Unexpected class cancellations leave students scrambling to fill degree needs


Class cancellations happen a lot, and they can cause students headache trying to fill their degree needs. | Kathryn Lenihan/The Cougar

After the semester started, some students were informed that their courses had been unexpectedly cancelled or were on the verge of cancellation.

While some were given a reason why their classes were cancelled, such as not enough students were enrolled, others were left wondering why.

Worries about meeting their upcoming graduation requirements, finding time in their schedule for another course and if it would even be possible to enroll in another ensued. 

“It kind of puts us in a hard position,” said psychology junior Lee Wagner, whose religious studies class was on the brink of cancellation the first week of classes. “Say if I was trying to graduate this semester, and this was one of the last classes that I needed, it would be really annoying.”

Decisions about class cancellations are made at either the college or departmental level, according to UH spokesman Chris Stipes, and the number of students enrolled in the course is an important factors in choosing which classes to keep.

That made the minimum requirement of 10 students for Wagner’s religious studies class a concern for the mere 6 students enrolled at the time.

Wagner said he’s worried for students whose class cancellations might cause them to stay in school longer than planned.

“It’s more time, and it’s more money,” Wagner said. “Nobody wants to have to stay another semester if they don’t have to, especially if it’s just for one class.”

Wagner was relieved to find out that his religious studies class had collected a few more students and was allowed to stay, but said he thinks that there should be rules that prevent these unexpected course cancellations after the semester starts. 

“There should be some limitations on how late into the semester starting that they can cancel or change up classes,” Wagner said. “It’s inconvenient for students, and it’s also inconvenient for professors too.”

History professor Robert Buzzanco said he found out in an email forwarded to him by his department chair that his online course over the Vietnam War was cancelled.

Buzzanco got the email notice on the first day of classes, and over that weekend the course was removed from Blackboard. 

Buzzanco said that he was told his class did not have enough Blackboard interaction with students.

Though there were links to the course’s lectures on YouTube that students take tests over, and an invitation to email Buzzanco if students have any questions, there were no discussion boards.

“I’m not as tech-savvy as some,” Buzzanco said. “I don’t use Blackboard, because I don’t know how. I’m available on email all the time, and I’m always corresponding with students.”

Buzzanco said this class is the most popular one he teaches.  He’s been teaching the online version for at least 20 years, and that every semester has either been filled or almost had full enrollment, he said.  

“I think it has a really vital role to play at UH educationally and even in the larger community,” Buzzanco said. “It’s unfortunate. It’s a really important class.”

Buzzanco said after enrollment is filled he always gets emails from troubled students that are about to graduate who are looking for a way to fulfill their credit hours.

He said this course helped students make their graduation requirements, and that he’s worried about how this cancellation will affect them.

“I think the timing really put the students in a bind because now they have to hustle to find these classes,” Buzzano said. “They’re gonna have to find another class to fit their schedule. Which is the nice thing about distance-ed.”

Stipes said that UH always works with students impacted by class cancellations to find suitable alternatives to fulfill degree requirements, and that class availability is “at the core of our commitment to student success.”

If a student is part of the UHin4 program and a class cancellation made them unable to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four consecutive academic years, the program has ways to help.

As long as all of the conditions of the student’s four-year graduation plan have been met, substituting the course with an equivalent, adding an independent study assignment and waiving the requirement that the cancelled course would have filled are some of the measures UHin4 takes to help. 

If none of these options are able to work, UHin4 will pay the tuition for the student to take the course required for degree completion within the next academic year. 

Stipes advises students that have been affected by unexpected class cancellations to contact their advisers, who can work with them to find the same class offered at a different time or another alternative solution. 

“The goal is always to minimize impact to those affected and not hinder students’ timely progression to graduation,” Stipes said.

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