End to Saturday Classes Causes Controversy

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End to Saturday Classes Causes Controversy

CCAC North is just one of the campuses set to lose Saturday classes.

CCAC North is just one of the campuses set to lose Saturday classes.

Claire Kleffman

CCAC North is just one of the campuses set to lose Saturday classes.

Claire Kleffman

Claire Kleffman

CCAC North is just one of the campuses set to lose Saturday classes.

Kristen Kaelin, North Campus Editor

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North Campus students will no longer be able to take weekend classes at their home campus. Starting in the spring of 2020, Saturday classes will only be available at Boyce, West Hills, South, and Allegheny campuses.  The decision came as a result of a combination of CCAC’s new “One College” policy and the implementation of a new scheduling software called Ad Astra Platinum Analytics.

“Ad Astra Platinum Analytics is designed to help our deans and department heads make scheduling decisions based on both historical trends and student demands, ” CCAC Registrar Diane Jacobs told The Voice. “The analytics provide a historical record of enrollment for each course for a location going back 5 years.”  On paper, this sounds like a no-lose scenario; in practice, however, it’s already turning out to be more than a little bit controversial.

Mathematics Professor Nick Duerlinger expressed dissatisfaction with the weekend class cancellations, as well as other shortcomings of the Ad Astra software. In emails shared with The Voice, Professor Duerlinger admonished the use of a computer to determine section availability, claiming that the decision “diminishes faculty morale” and fails to account for the context a human being might be able to. Duerlinger also made an argument against section cancellations for “One College” purposes. “By dropping sections at one campus, there seems to be an assumption a student will sign up for the course at another campus. A computer algorithm analysis does not account for the difficulty a given student might have getting to another campus.”

Despite these accusations, Dr. Jacobs insists, “Our utmost goal is student success and Ad Astra helps us to make scheduling decisions based on data.” When asked about the scheduling process with the Ad Astra addition, Dr. Jacobs stated, “The Campus Deans and department heads have access to the data so they can review the results and make their own decisions based on the recommendations. We have also established a college-wide team that reviews the recommendations to make sure we make decisions equitable across the campuses.”

Data based on registration numbers may be the ideal metric for Ad Astra’s algorithm, Professor Duerlinger argues that the aforementioned data is incomplete. The Math Professor mentioned in his email that withdrawn students are not counted in Ad Astra historical counts. “Withdrawals don’t necessarily mean there was no demand for a given section.” He finished an email dated Nov. 6 by asking, “Why has College Office implemented Ad Astra when its statistics do not actually reflect actual course registrations for a given term?”

While there is no direct evidence to suggest incomplete registration data has affected Ad Astra’s decision making, it is true that the majority of the Saturday sections currently available at North campus are in departments with nationally high dropout rates. The area likely to be hit hardest by the cancellation of Saturday classes is in computers and technology. Of the 16 Saturday-only sections offered at North Campus in 2019, three are from the Computer Information Technology department, and two are Multimedia Communications courses. One section of English Composition 1, a graduation requirement for all CCAC programs, was also offered for Fall 2019.

The remaining ten sections include Honors Program classes, science electives associated with the Nursing Program, and electives for Education majors. These sections will have to be rescheduled to a weekday, or no longer be available on campus. Other sections of these courses will still be available to students, of course. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, Computer Science majors have the highest drop out rate of any major. Nursing isn’t far behind, with over a quarter of nursing hopefuls dropping out before graduation.

Weekend class cancellation isn’t just removing current sections from availability. It’s also undoing the plans for two “weekend-only” certificates starting in 2020.  The CIT department, already experiencing losses from the decision, has also had to cancel a plan to offer its Web Development and Cybersecurity certificates as a hybrid program, able be completed using only online and Saturday courses.  This change is already impacting students. CCAC North Student Clark Jackson told The Voice, “I might have to delay my graduation by a semester. I was relying on the option to take weekend classes over the summer so I could work more hours.”

There is still hope for some of these sections to return in the future. Dr. Jacobs told The Voice that the Ad Astra’s recommendations don’t always result in cancellations. “We may choose not to eliminate a section because the campus is still trying to promote a new program or we may decide to allow an evening section typically low enrolled to run since evening students are not always able to come during the day.”