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Semester Conversion Update: Preparations Underway to Augment Student Advising

The University of Cincinnati continues to prepare for its conversion to semesters on Aug. 27, 2012. That preparation includes meeting students’ ongoing advising needs: UC has added options to its online grade reports, is adding advisors and will soon test an online appointment calendar.

Date: 6/29/2010 12:00:00 AM
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Design by Kathy Bohlen

UC ingot   The first day of the University of Cincinnati’s new semester calendar – Aug. 27, 2012 – is more than two years away.

However, preparations are ongoing in three major phases:

  • Ongoing curricular revisions, the bulk of which will be complete by the end of 2010.
  • Encoding and cataloguing of these revisions, which will be complete by Fall 2011.
  • Student advising, which will run from Fall 2011 to Fall 2012.

As part of ongoing and near-term preparations, UC has

  • Added an option to allow a student to see what his or her online grade report will look like after the conversion to semesters.
  • UC is adding academic advisors.
  • UC will test a pilot online appointment calendar.

Right now, UC students can go online to check their grade reports. This grade report function, available via UC’s OneStop, has always shown a student’s progress in terms of quarter-hour credits earned.
Quarter-based grade report
Image of a current quarter-based online grade report.

Now, this grade report tool ALSO shows the semester-hour equivalents of these quarter-hour credits. When viewing their current online grade reports, students can – with a click – view the current grade report AS IF it were an online grade report from after Aug. 27, 2012.

Said University Registrar Doug Burgess, “The added information helps students see how quarter hours and the associated quality points will look like under the semester system. However, no grade transcripts will include the semester-hour information until after Aug. 27, 2012. So, in other words, students are seeing what their grade reports will look like for courses taken after Aug. 27, 2012. It won’t affect transcripts or grade reports until we reach that date and for courses taken after that date.”
semester-based grade report example
Image of a semester-based online grade report. Semester-based grade reports will be in use after Aug. 27, 2012.

The new option will allow students to see for themselves that

  • Conversion will NOT affect a student’s grade point average. A student’s grade point average under semesters will be identical to the GPA under quarters.
  • Students will NOT lose academic credit in the conversion to semesters. Credits are merely counted differently in semesters vs. quarters. Basically, both credits earned and credits necessary to meet degree requirements under semesters are about 2/3 of what they would be under quarters. So, a degree under the quarter system that requires 185 credits to graduate will generally require 120 total credits under semesters. See academic credit FAQ for more information.

Prior to the decision to convert to semesters, as recommended in the University System of Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Higher Education, UC needed to improve its advisor-to-student ratios to meet national norms. Improvement in these advisor-to-student ratios, especially with enrollment increases, was necessary whether or not the state’s public institutions of higher education changed their academic calendars.

Conversion to semesters added impetus to meet academic advising needs. Thus, some new undergraduate advisors will come on board on July 1, 2010, while other positions will be filled after that date. In all, 21 undergraduate advising positions will be filled (18 new and three reassigned positions). All are permanent advising positions but will be helpful in meeting advising needs in advance of the conversion to semesters.

During the planning and transition to the new academic calendar, the university will ask each student to meet with an advisor to create a written Individual Advising Plan (IAP). All students who meet with the appropriate UC advisor to plan and then follow an IAP receive the following three pledges found in greater detail in the Pledge to Students:

  • No loss of academic progress related to the conversion to semesters.
  • No delay in degree completion related to the conversion to semesters.
  • No increased costs for degree completion related to semester conversion.

This summer, five college advising centers will pilot a test of an online scheduling system to allow students to make or change advising appointments online in real time. Currently, students need to call or e-mail a particular advisor, advising office or faculty member to make or change an appointment. Or, students can “walk in” to meet their advising needs.

These contact options will still be available; however, the new online tool  will provide an additional option, allowing students to see an advisor’s or faculty member’s appointment calendar and instantly know if an advisor or faculty member is available on a particular time on a particular day, according to Ned Donnelly, associate director, Registrar’s Office.

“To be successful through the semester conversion process, students will need more options for scheduling an appointment with their advisors. This new tool will improve services to students and will help advisors and faculty work more efficiently. Both students and advisors can see this calendar in real time online. In addition, the system will subsequently send confirmation and reminder e-mails to both the student and advisor when an appointment is made or a change or cancellation occurs,” explained Donnelly.

This online appointment scheduling system is integrated with other campus systems with which students and advisors are already familiar, such as Blackboard 9.0 and Microsoft Outlook, that allow for ease of functionality, like single sign-on.

The Registrar’s Office will test the new system, powered by Starfish CONNECT software, this summer in cooperation with a total of about 500 students in five colleges. The new online system is slated to be available to all UC students during the 2010-2011 academic year.

In cooperation with the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning, training will be offered to UC faculty and staff on using this new online option. Students will be provided support via the UCit help desk, Faculty Technology Resource Center/Blackboard support office, the Registrar’s Office and college offices.

Other universities using this online appointment tool include the University of Chicago and the University of Pittsburgh.