Hours of Instruction

The MRFA is trying to enable departments to keep the instructional hours they deem necessary for courses for pedagogical reasons. By collecting impact statements and preparing cost estimates the MRFA will present a cost benefit analysis of reducing instructional hours. This will give faculty and departments a means by which they can defend maintaining the instructional hours of their courses. Impact statements should describe why the instructional hours are important and what the impact of reducing them would be on the educational outcomes. Hours of instruction are an academic matter and any changes must be approved through the curriculum change process. The fact that there is a budget impact cannot prevent GFC from considering these changes.

 

Departments that have already increased class sizes to keep the extra hour would, in the short term, be able to reduce the class sizes back if forced to reduce instructional hours.  But, in the longer term, there could be pressure to reduce the hours of instruction and keep the class sizes where they are

 


Notes from Meetings

 

Issue: The possible reduction of instructional hours from 4 to 3 is a huge issue for us. We have five courses with 4 hours of instruction and it is for pedagogical reasons. Two of them are writing courses and the students do projects for external clients in the other three. The educational outcomes of these courses are critical to the success of our students and to the reputation of our program. There has to be some flexibility, especially for professional programs.

A: The MRFA is trying to be an enabler in this matter. Use the impact statement to argue the case with your dean. Gerry will be asking for the number of sections of these courses that you run annually and then we will provide you with budget data, probably the savings as a percentage of your operating budget if the hours were cut and the cost at PT instructional rates of retaining them. This should be helpful in comparing these cuts to other options.

Q: Could the students pay for the extra hour of instruction?

A: They did up until about five years ago. Hours of instruction were used to determine the number of credits and these courses would have been four credit courses. Tuition was based on credits, so a four credit course was one-third more expensive than a three credit course. This was changed so that the standard course was three credits, regardless of the number of hours of instruction, resulting in tuition being based on courses. The change was made because this is the norm at universities. Increases in tuition are capped to the rate of inflation by the government and I don’t think government would approve a return to a per-hour type of charge unless the rate were adjusted so that the total tuition did not increase (which would mean that tuition for a three hour course would decrease).

Q: What about the Fall 2013 schedule?

A: Courses must be scheduled at the number of hours of instruction that appear in the Calendar.

Q: Has the Dean been pressuring you to schedule these courses at 3 hours of instruction?

A: The Chair said there was pressure to change the fourth hour to a lab, which would affect PT faculty because they would be paid at less than half the lecture rate. This is particularly a concern because the department has a 3 to 1 PT to FT ratio.

[Postscript: The Chair told me after the October GM that the Dean is pressuring her to reduce the hours of instruction via an editorial change and to timetable these courses at three hours for fall 2013. I advised her to resist and that changing hours of instruction is a non-editorial change which should be debated at APPC and GFC, and might not be approved. Student impact is an important consideration in these deliberations.]

Q: I have a question about the harm-savings impact statement on reduction in instructional hours. Do you have a template for what an impact statement should contain? I think it would be helpful if there were consistency. We have statistics courses with a one hour tutorial in a computer lab that we want to retain.

A: An impact statement should describe why the instructional hours are important and what the impact of reducing them would be on the educational outcomes. The one that Gerry presented at the April Board of Governors meeting was from a professional program similar to yours but in another Faculty. They had reduced the hours in some courses during the transition from an applied degree, but had retained 4 hours of instruction in five of their courses. Two are writing courses, and writing is a critical skill in this profession, and the students do projects for external clients in the other three. The impact statement argued that the outcomes of these courses were critical to the success of their graduates and could not be achieved with 3 hours of instruction.

 

The MRFA is trying to be an enabler in this, but we recognize that the extra hours of instruction may not all be taught by a regular teaching faculty member. However, the argument that Deans’ Council seems to have made that universities with TAs can have more than 3 hours of instruction but we can’t because we don’t have TAs is incomplete. We have a Laboratory Instructor classification in the CA and there are six of them now, two in Chemistry, two in Biology, two in Physics and one in Anthropology. But this might not be possible for your stats courses if there are too few sections or the work in the lab is tightly integrated with the lecture.

 

Q: We increased class sizes from 35 to 45 to keep the extra hour. If we were required to reduce the hours from 4 to 3, we would want to be able to reduce the class sizes back down to 35. Do you think we would have trouble doing that?

A: In the short term, I think it will be remembered that you increased class sizes to retain the fourth hour of instruction and that you will not be asked to give it up. But, in the longer term, there could be pressure to reduce the hours of instruction and keep the class sizes where they are.

Q: Is it established that hours of instruction is an academic matter?

A: Hours of instruction are an academic matter and any changes must be approved through the curriculum change process. The fact that there is a budget impact cannot prevent GFC from considering these changes. At the April meeting of the Board of Governors, Gerry presented an impact statement from a professional program and two members noted that hours of instruction are a matter for GFC to decide on.

Q: There has been a lot of discussion at DAG and in the Faculty about amending the definition of SICH and of lab versus tutorial hours. We have courses with 4 contact hours and are not sure how others are doing it. Is the university pulling back on hours of instruction across the board?

A: Gerry reviewed what the MRFA is doing to help departments argue their case and mentioned that the impact statement presented at the April Board meeting was from PR. The university is facing structural underfunding of some 3% per year. We know that adjustments are required, but decisions must be made with the best information possible. There is now a full-time laboratory position in the CA with a grid which pays considerably less than ours. It may be that some of the hours of instruction should be taught at a lower cost, rather than be cut, but that is for management to propose.

 

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