Repeat students make up 20 per cent of first-year spring and summer chemistry courses.
the Gauntlet

Chemistry no longer a part of summer

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Some students may experience a small hitch in their plans next summer, forced to take some time off instead of studying.

First- and second-year chemistry courses may no longer be offered during the spring and summer semesters. University of Calgary chemistry department head Dr. Brian Keay looked over past Universal Student Ratings of Instruction and long answer survey questions and saw a disturbing trend.

"What we had noticed over a period of five years is students were mentioning some concerns with respect to CHEM 201 and 203," said Keay. "Some of the things were too much material, the material seemed to be too much like high school, some students didn't find it challenging, some students found that [for] their particular major that they were enrolled in, the content wasn't conducive to what they needed to know."

U of C second-year biomedical student Mary Fleet had similar concerns with the program. She is currently enrolled in CHEM 203.

"If I had known that 203 was more like high school chemistry, I would've started with it," said Fleet. "I don't like CHEM 201, but I don't think anybody does. It's too general and when things are so broad, you can't see what the application is for any of it."

Keay also noted the number of students with D's, F's and W's had increased over the past five years for all four semesters. To try and combat these issues, the chemistry faculty--along with several faculty of education members who had surveyed classes independently--went on a one day retreat last May to brainstorm solutions. Afterwards, a first year steering committee was tasked with proposing appropriate changes.

"What we've decided to do is set up three separate first-year courses," explained Keay. "One stream will be mainly for our chemistry majors, the second stream will be for students in science that need to take chemistry in their first year and there will be a third stream for non-science majors that need a half-course in chemistry to meet an elective requirement."

While CHEM 201 is a prerequisite for 203, Fleet's desire to take 203 before 201 could be possible for future students if the proposal is passed. Keay hopes to change the curriculums to allow students to take the courses in any order and match those in other Alberta institutions. He explained students need a 50 per cent average in their midterm and final to get a C.

"A lot of students don't make that average and so they get a D-plus," said Keay. "In the January block week, we could offer a quarter-course."

The course would consist of a series of tutorials and an exam. Students that pass would get their 201 or 203 course marked bumped up to a C. Currently 20 per cent of students in spring and summer courses are repeating because of low marks.

While the proposal hasn't been passed, a straw vote last September showed unanimous support for canceling the classes and other changes.