Minutes: October 28, 2008


Report of the meeting of the ACADEMIC AFFAIRS COMMITTEE of Erindale College Council held on Tuesday, October 28, 2008, at 3:10 p.m. in Room 3129, South Building.

Attendance: D. Kreuger; D. Crocker; A. Lange; N. Copeland; M. Lippincott; A. Madhavji; K. Poloz; G. Anderson; A. Fleming; B. Katz; R. Reisz; S. Meza; C. Cranford; A. Wensley; N. Woolridge; J. McCurdy-Myers; G. Crawford; A. Bendlin; R. Gerlai; J. Poe;

Regrets: G. Averill; G. Kambourov; C. Evans;

Guests: C. DeMarco;

1. First AAC meeting of 2008-09; Chair welcomed new members.

2. Approval of minutes: M. Lippincott noted that his name was in the minutes of the last meeting twice. The minutes of the last meeting were approved.

3. Election of new Chair: passed to Professor Anthony Wensley. The position of Chair is normally held for two years. Professor Wensley nominated Angela Lange to fulfill her second year. B Katz seconded. Professor Lange agreed and was declared Chair.

4. Reports of Committees and Officers

a) Report from the Registrar and Director of Enrolment Management, Diane Crocker

Update from the Office

The Registrar reported on updates from her office, highlighting the following:
Current enrolment of 10,650 students (FT & PT undergraduates), which is 200 over the enrolment target, however some further decline to ~10,650 is expected.

They are expecting ~400 students to graduate at the Fall convocation, which is UTM’s largest November convocation.

Fall campus day was held last Sunday, and it was a tremendous success, with more than 1250 people registered, and many others who didn’t register but just arrived.

Student recruiters have been busy visiting western & southwestern Ontario high-schools.

Course syllabus project update: 100% of course instructors provided information on-line which allowed an exam schedule to be created much quicker than normal. The timetable format has changed, so syllabi can now be accessed from that timetable. The response has been favourable from students and staff, who are finding it a very useful tool. Critical feedback has also been received, and they are working on making changes, which are mostly cosmetic.

SEAT: the attendance tracking system for exams has also been working effectively; it’s easy to know which students attend or miss exams. Training of the system is being done, and departments are able to borrow the equipment for mid-term tests.

The main counter of the Office of the Registrar has been renovated. Since basic services are available online, the front-line staff will be doing more one-on-one advising, and the space reflects this change, i.e., in order to provide privacy, sensitivity, etc.

The floor was opened to questions:

  • A member asked about the course syllabi. Diane said that all staff, students and faculty can access them using UTORid. Students log in regularly to check out classes when making their course selections.
  • A member asked about the 12-week proposal. Diane shared that this will be deferred until the next AAC meeting. They have consulted with students through QSS and received their support.
  • A member asked about the course syllabi styles and content, which are very different at the moment. Could there be a template to keep everyone on the same page? Diane explained that Management is working on one for their department, and Cleo Boyd is also working on one. This is an issue the Dean will likely present at a Chair’s meeting.

Revised Deferred Exam Scheduling
A handout was provided and the Registrar described the problems with the current scheduling of deferred April exams.  The most concerning problem is when students are on probation and they defer the exam to August, they don’t find out that they have failed a course until they have already returned to campus and started in September. The schedule is also problematic for sessional instructors; once August comes, sessional instructors may have left UTM and are therefore not available to deal with the deferred exams and final marks.

The Registrar described the new schedule for deferred exams.  Students write the deferred exams immediately after the regular exam period (usually within 2 weeks). Students will need to act within 72 hours in order to qualify for the deferred exam (doctor’s note, etc.). The Office can automatically generate an e-mail to students who fail to show up at the exam (using SEAT), so that students are well-informed about how to request a deferred exam. There will not be an automatic second deferral; second deferrals are only granted in the case of significant medical or personal emergency. If they do not write the second deferral, they will be prohibited from registering further.

A communication plan will be important. Registrar’s Office will be scheduling the deferred exam schedule at the same time as the regular exam schedule. Registrar’s Office is confident that it will be better for students, and will improve the enrolment processes.

A member asked if students might see this as an opportunity to get two-weeks extra to prepare. The Registrar explained that a medical note is still needed and might not be easily obtained. Diane hopes this new system will minimize the current 30% no-show rate on deferred exams.

A member asked why the quick, two-week turnaround. Diane replied that it is a matter of scheduling; rooms are not otherwise available until later in August. It is also to aid the students, since the course content is still fresh in their minds.

A member commented that there may be more people taking advantage of this than they anticipate, and the better students will find it an attractive way to lighten their exam schedule. The member suggested that it be a pilot project, not set in stone. The Registrar explained that this item doesn’t need AAC approval and is for information only, since it’s a matter of administration. All projects of this nature are subject to regular review in the office of the Registrar, so in essence it will be changed if it does not work. 

A member observed that all instructors will need to provide a deferred exam. Since many instructors use the same exam (normally used months later), this will be a significant change and extra work for course instructors to come up with new exams. The Registrar explained that currently 90% of courses do need deferred exams, so instructors are already preparing these exams. A survey of other institutions showed that most other institutions hold their deferred exams soon after the original date.

A member suggested that a 20% increase in deferred exams (such as was the case at UTSC this summer) is just over the course of one year, but it remains to be seen what will happen the following year, and the year after; it could be a huge issue. The Registrar explained that they do track deferred exams and will continue to monitor this situation and report regularly, and students tend to do much worse on deferred exams than the regularly scheduled exams.

A member expressed concern that an understanding amongst the students about the deferred exam might be a reprise of the normal exam. Once students understand the system, they’ll get the idea that the process just provides them some extra time to study, particularly since instructors tend to use the same exam. Right now, it is the poorer students who opt for the deferred exams. It was suggested that it is a great idea in principle, but the concern is that instructors will continue to use the original exam for the deferred exams.

A member noted that it was a terrific plan, and figures that it just may reduce the number of deferrals. Departments will need to take a very active role in communicating this change, and encourage sessional instructors to prepare different exams.

Annual Report

The Registrar presented her Annual Report. The report is also available on the Office of the Registrar’s website under Faculty & Staff Applications.  She highlighted the use of SEAT for exam tracking using a scanner to scan student cards and the web-based CGPA tool has been a hit with students.
Class photo project is underway. Most first-year students are in the database, and it conforms to FIPPA requirements, so students agree to be photographed. Faculty can encourage students to get their photos taken.

Financial aid counselling is a growing need.

The StepONE program is a first-year transition program offered by the Registrar’s Office, but with support from many student affairs, library services. 1600 students participated in some of the workshops, and 280 completed 10 workshops, and 90% of those students actually completed 4.0 courses, so they’re more successful than non-participating students. It takes $15K/year to run this very successful program.

The Registrar dealt with specific questions about the report.

5. New Business:

a) 2007-08 Research Report: Devin Kreuger, Director, Research Affairs & Acting Director, Governance

Devin Kreuger presented the Research Report.  This report can be found on the Research Office website.  Some highlights are that funding for UTM exceeded $10 million for the second time in UTM’s history. The report represents the funding from the Tri-Council, peer-reviewed research funding (SSHRC, NSERC and CIHR), but it also represents GRIP infrastructure (such as CFI, ORF and CRC), other foundations (corporate, sub-grants), and internal funding, i.e., Connaught. Mr. Kreuger explained the trajectory of growth and core funding representation for UTM.

Mr. Kreuger fielded questions regarding the funding trajectories for each of the disciplines.  There was some discussion also over ROP students and NSERC Summer students.

Further New Business:

Transfer-credit students:

One member mentioned that they have found that transfer credit students do worse in their courses than regular students, and the retention rate is very low. The member would like to propose a study to explore the issue. Is it worth investing resources in this issue? Chair asked the Registrar if there is any data on this and whether this could be examined.

The Registrar said that students are granted transfer credits by the Office of Admissions, and that the number of transfer credits has increased. The more interesting issue is students coming from other colleges or universities, and it doesn’t surprise the Registrar that students from other institutions might struggle here—it takes them a while to regroup. The Registrar mentioned that the different departments review transfer credits differently—Registrar’s Office would prefer for departments to take a more active role in facilitating transfer credits. The Registrar would support a study that explores the issue in greater depth.

This issue of students with transfer credits will be added to the agenda at a future meeting.

6. Next meeting: Curriculum meeting—November 25th, at 3:10.

7. Adjourned: 4:50 p.m.

Secretary ___________________________ Chair ___________________________________