Only 135 Hours

There’s a new cost-saving proposal out there for Texas higher ed, and the idea is to get students to graduate in close to four years by slapping a major financial penalty on those who need too many hours to complete a 120-hour degree.

The Commissioner of Higher Education, Raymond Paredes

said that limiting students to 135 hours to get a degree would save “tens of millions” of dollars.

And he wasn’t suggesting students wouldn’t be allowed to go beyond 135 hours to get that degree. He suggested that anything beyond that figure should be charged at out-of-state tuition rates since no additional tuition dollars are collected for full-time students taking more than 12 credit hours (15 is a normal load).

This means that students would get 15 hours of failure, for lack of a better term, at in-state rates. That’s 5 traditional courses at 3 semester credit hours each; biology at my university often is a 5 credit hour course, so passing it the first time around becomes even more crucial. Withdrawing from a class does not affect the attempted hours, I should note.

If this proposal were enacted, students would need to get more serious about passing. Faculty also need to get more serious about helping students succeed, beyond an attitude of “well, I lecture and give all of the information, and students can get tutors.”

Social media and Web 2.0 can offer extra support for students who attend every lecture, take notes, and STILL don’t understand concepts well enough to apply or synthesize them. Neither of the ideas below is new, but both are simple to implement and get students where they live: online.

  • Come up with a Twitter hashtag for your class that students can follow. Hold Twitter office hours. Twitter sample questions or practice scenarios. Students can tweet from their phones very, very easily, and there are only 140 characters involved.
  • Make a Facebook fan page for your class. Students can’t see your private or personal profile. They only can “like” your page to get updates in their feed about assignments, campus events, deadlines, changes to the syllabus, etc. A status update can be a review question or suggestion of what pages in the textbook to re-read closely before an exam. You can toggle between your personal and fan page identities easily in Facebook.

Yes, students can access this kind of information by coming to your campus office hours–if they aren’t in class, working, or caring for children during that time. Yes, students can get to your university CMS/LMS, but from a smartphone? This can be very awkward, time-consuming, and frustrating. Apps for Twitter and Facebook work well, and students tend to check both Web 2.0 sites throughout the day.

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Here are some additional resources about Twitter at the college level:


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