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Shopping for classes rife with obstacles

Story by Jessica Ott
Photo by Luke Nankivell

shopping-w2000-h2000Some universities offer students a chance to try out classes during the first week or two of the semester. This method, known as “shopping week,” is used at Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Yale, but it is unknown if it will appear at Drake University.

Yale’s shopping week allows students to participate in a course without enrolling right away, though the classes assign homework that students are expected to complete if they decide to enroll. At Drake, students register for class during the previous semester, but can choose to add a class during the first week or drop a class later on.

Kevin Moenkhaus, director of Student Records and Academic Information, said how beneficial a shopping week — or just adding and dropping classes during the semester — is dependant on the student.

“There are so many variables in each student’s situation,” Moenkhaus said. “The late add may pay off in terms of the student meeting a particular degree requirement a little earlier, but the tradeoff is that the student may have to spend a little more time catching up to the rest of the class. Whether that tradeoff is worth it really is up to that student.”

Moenkhaus said he felt the system could cause problems for professors and administrators, especially in regards to class size.

“There are times when adding a student would mean that the room’s fire code would be broken, in which case we would be forced to find a new suitable space for the class,” he said. “Accomplishing that after the semester has begun almost always has a ripple effect because it would involve moving other classes as well.”

Students liked the idea of the increased flexibility that came with shopping week.

“I’d get a better sense of what Drake has to offer,” Dori Hauser, a sophomore elementary education major, said. “But if you decide one class is not for you then you wasted your time.”

Senior law, politics and society major Seth Hedman felt that a shopping week might have better helped him pick classes.

“I think there are some classes I wish I could get a feel for before hand,” Hedman said.

He also felt that shopping week could improve the quality of some courses.

“People in a class would be more likely to want to be there,“ Hedman said. “It’d be a better class.”

Although none of the professors interviewed felt that shopping week was a bad idea, many felt it wouldn’t work well with many of the classes Drake offers.

Associate professor and Chair of magazine journalism Lori Blachford felt the benefits to the students would come at the cost of a professor’s preparedness.

“If I was a student, I think it’d be great to find classes that energize me, but professors would be in limbo,” Blachford said.

She also felt not knowing who would be staying for the semester could harm some courses where students start working right away. Her media responsibility class for example splits the class up within the first week to read news for Iowa Radio Reading Information Services throughout the course of the semester.

Elizabeth Robertson, associate professor and English department chair, felt that while shopping week could work with lecture classes, it wouldn’t work well with her writing courses.

“You can only have a certain amount of students in a writing class, and you need to form a community,” Robertson said. “It takes time to build a class language. (Students) may make a snap judgment they regret.”

Multimedia instructor Chris Snider felt that the idea was interesting, but would be a bit gimmicky.

“Couldn’t (students) shop a class now by attending and dropping?” Snider said.

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