Truman State University adopted a new policy establishing regulations on substantial classroom interaction and engagement the first week of classes. Based on federal regulations that require students and faculty to engage in regular, substantive interaction, the University’s new policy will be applied to both in-person and online courses starting this summer interim semester. For an in-person course, attending the class within the first calendar week of class is required. For online classes, the instructor must initiate an activity for students to engage with during the first calendar week of class.
The common argument supporting this new policy from the administration is that it will ensure students are getting the most out of their tuition dollars. That somehow, this policy protects students from wasting money by signing up for courses they don’t intend to actively participate in.
We, The Index Editorial Board, find that narrative to be a bunch of BS. How, we ask, does a policy that requires students and faculty to engage in substantive classroom engagement within the first week of classes ensure that students are making the right course selection decisions and allowing them to immerse themselves in the class before making a judgment?
The first week of classes is never that educationally substantial anyway, so this policy effectively adds extra barriers and preparation work for students and faculty, especially those utilizing an online format. Students and faculty should have the freedom to manage their time and class engagement independently, not have it regulated by the University. As most faculty use the first week of classes to step through the syllabus and get students acclimated to the structure of the course — possibly starting with an introduction to content — it seems safe to say that the first week is not your money’s worth, so we shouldn’t hold it to a higher standard than the rest of the semester.
With the new policy going into effect this summer, the University is also presenting some conflicting messaging. Advertising for summer courses routinely promotes their convenience and flexibility, however, this new policy is actively working against that by requiring students and faculty to place a greater emphasis on making the first week a substantive, engaging experience. With this policy, Truman is encouraging a more rigid schedule for online course delivery, which is a step in the wrong direction.
We, The Index Editorial Board, ask the University to consider this topic further and be frank with its faculty and students in its messaging on this policy. We don’t see this as an inherently beneficial step for Truman’s remote course delivery options or students. The policy seems to be more geared toward cleaning up course rosters and settling classroom numbers than anything else, and that puts students at risk of losing scholarships and course credit because of a single tough week.