Taskforce continues work on four-by-four

As the new academic year begins, University officials continue to examine the possibility of switching student courseloads to a four-class, four-credit system.

Administrators created a task force last spring to consider implementing the four-by-four system, but according to a July letter to the GW community from the Office of Academic Affairs, the committee made up of 24 faculty members, students and administrators has not reached an agreement on the model’s “value” for GW.

Donald Lehman, executive vice president of Academic Affairs, said that after taking a hiatus in July and August, the committee will resume its work this month in hopes of completing research on the proposed system by December.

The University has been researching more ways to maximize its classroom use through unsuccessful initiatives such as a mandatory summer semester. Proponents of the four-credit, four-class system argue that students would benefit from more focused study, and additional class space would be made available. Those against the plan claim that it would limit electives and require many changes across different classes.

Lehman, who began looking into the four-by-four system three years ago, said implementing the plan would make for a difficult transition. If accepted, the four-by-four model could change course requirements in majors and minors throughout the University.

“Our goal is that the students not spread themselves thinly, but rather delve deeply and focus more directly to get greater command of the material,” Lehman said. “(This) may happen through a full four hours of class time, associated field work, library research work and increased faculty oversight.”

A typical student schedule now consists of five classes for three credits each. Lehman said the four-by-four curriculum could result in fewer overall course requirements, but would “enhance student engagement and academic challenge.”

The task force still needs to address questions on how the four-by-four system would be phased in and how much the switch would cost the University.

Although discussions on the proposed system will continue, the GW leadership is still far from giving the go-ahead to the four-by-four system. Administrators considered changing the University’s credit structure twice in the last 15 years, and the most recent unsuccessful attempt for a change came in 2003, when officials considered implementing a mandatory summer session for rising juniors alongside the four-by-four plan.

In an e-mail last week Lehman acknowledged that the last study was “compromised” by the concerns over the mandatory summer term, but said the four-by-four plan still has merit. The current task force isn’t considering changes to the University’s academic calendar.

According to the public letter on the task force’s efforts, work on the new course structure will continue into 2006. Lehman said the group is “committed to getting a lot of input from the GW community, especially faculty and students.”

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