July 20, 2019 | 83° F

Students bank on RUSA to improve course guidance

Photo by Susmita Paruchuri |

As course selection rolls around again, the Rutgers University Student Assembly is looking to make life easier for students with its introduction of "The Syllabus Bank."

By reassessing the synopsis option on the course catalog, RUSA is looking to implement new policies for next year to make a course syllabus bank available for every class so that students can view the course content of previous semesters.

Matthew Panconi, president of RUSA, said students will be able view the most recent syllabi for the course under the new tab. This will be done by introducing a mandatory "syllabus bank" for each course and requiring professors to upload this as a link that can be accessed through the course catalog.

The project is aimed at resolving the issue of students picking their courses based on little information. RUSA recognizes this is a large task to take on but the initiative would be a huge step toward tackling the problem.

Alicia Pedenault, a senior in the School of Arts and Sciences, said the prospect of having access to an old syllabus would be very helpful, and would ensure that students know the course they are taking is directed toward their interests.

In the past, students utilized other resources to gauge which course suits them best, with sites such as "Rate my Professor" proving to be a popular hub for professor and class reviews.

Others may speak to older students about their experiences with certain classes, but this is much more difficult for younger students, particularly for first-year students.

Some courses already offer a syllabus bank, according to RUSA. But, in most cases, these are often hard to find and are located behind several links on department websites.

Panconi said the introduction of a compulsory syllabus bank will allow students to get a sense of the intensity of the class, the type of work expected and which textbooks they will need.

By improving the channels through which students can inform themselves about their classes, it allows for better time management so that students can spend more time enjoying extracurricular activities, Panconi said.

Despite the positive reception, the introduction raises some concern over students choosing courses based on ease of testing or cheaper textbooks and resources.

Amy Mao, an exchange student from the University of Melbourne, said if she knew how her courses were going to be examined based on the previous syllabi, it would definitely influence her decision as to which courses to take.

The weighting of exams, papers and homework assessments toward the final grade would most definitely impact students’ decisions, she said.

This poses the potential issue of "easier" classes getting filled up rapidly, leaving the more difficult courses for students who didn’t act quickly enough.

Pedenault said it is bad that we chose our subjects based on ease of examinations. But, the reality is that every student wants to perform to the best of their ability and some people do better on exams, others on papers and some on homework quizzes.

The other concern is that students may choose courses based on cheaper or more accessible materials.

If the materials for a course were available by rental or from the library it could be a deciding factor for students who find the cost of textbooks to be a pressing financial concern.

Compared to other students, Pedenault said she was fortunate to spend $110 on textbooks this semester.

Mao said by comparison to the price of textbooks at her home University in Melbourne, textbooks and course materials at Rutgers was considerably more expensive and this weighs into the decision making process for many students.

Despite some of the issues that have been raised, both Mao and Penedault agreed it would be extremely useful to have more background information before choosing courses.

Last week Matthew Paconi and Justin Scuhlberg, the School of Arts and Sciences Senate Leader and Student Representative to the Student Executive Committee, made a presentation to the chairs of every department in the School of Arts and Sciences pitching the idea for the policy.

“They were very receptive to our plan and we are confident that they will be on board with this moving forward,” Panconi said.

The project continues to progress and the board said its planned launch is in the Fall 2016 semester.

Orla Francesca Lavery

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