J-term for credit heading toward approval

Monday, March 31, 2008

As the proposal to offer some January@Brown courses for credit works its way toward official approval, the College Curriculum Council is currently working on a “formal proposal” to the faculty, which still must give its go-ahead to the idea, Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

Once the CCC’s proposal receives “faculty endorsement,” instructors will submit course proposals to the Office of Summer and Continuing Studies, which will then submit them to the CCC for approval on an individual basis, she wrote.

“The idea would be to offer the courses on a credit-optional basis; and to assign no more than a half credit for each course,” Bergeron wrote.

It will be unclear whether courses would be offered for a grade or on a satisfactory/no credit basis until the proposal is “vetted” by the CCC, she wrote.

It is “way too soon” to say what the criteria are for a credit-bearing course, Dean of Summer and Continuing Studies Karen Sibley said. Courses must have a certain number of hours and a certain quality standard to receive credit, she added.

Bergeron and Sibley both said students have overwhelmingly requested a credit option for January@Brown. Bergeron wrote that many students who participated in this year’s program said at the end of the program that they would be interested in receiving credit for January@Brown.

“It seems important, though, that students continue to be allowed to take the courses for no credit at all, if they prefer,” she wrote.

Bergeron added that students are also attracted to the program for its “organized group activities that bring students together and foster community,” which would not be affected by a credit offering.

Sibley said that a majority of January@Brown students told her they would have liked to receive credit for their courses had they involved a larger assignment, like a paper. But Sibley said it was unclear whether students wanted to work harder during the program for instrinsic reasons or because they want the work reflected on their transcripts.

Sibley said she is “eager for student feedback,” adding that she is curious how students expect to use the credit they would receive for January@Brown. “This is about what the students want and need,” she said.

This year’s program helped to prove January@Brown’s sustainability, said Rakim Brooks ’09, chair of the Academic and Administrative Affairs Committee of the Undergraduate Council of Students. “If it wasn’t viable, it wouldn’t continue, and if it didn’t continue, it wouldn’t be offered for credit,” he said. Brooks proposed a credit offering for this year’s program last fall but said he was told that the program needed to become more solid.

Bergeron wrote that a credit offering could boost January@Brown’s popularity. “It is entirely possible that the prospect of earning a half-credit would draw more students to the program,” she wrote.

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