Certain course listings for spring 2009 look subtly different than their spring 2008 counterparts.
As of today, the total number of undergraduate course sections offered by UNLV in spring 2009 is 4,270, according to UNLV registration class listings. This is compared to the 4,560 sections offered spring 2008.
However, this reduction is not across the board. Several departments have introduced new courses while others have been dropped. Some prerequisites, general education requirements and common electives have seen a reduction in sections.
Most reductions are minor, with one or two sections shaved off for spring 2009.
“This semester we only offered one section of [ENG] 206 instead of the two offered last semester,” said Jaq Greenspon, a graduate assistant in the English department teaching Intermediate Composition, a course required for students minoring in English. The course was offered this fall, but won’t be offered in the spring.
“[English majors] need [ENG] 303 to graduate but they only offer one section a semester,” Greenspon added.
The English department’s total section offerings have seen an overall increase-314 sections in spring 2008, and 331 sections in spring 2009. Much of this comes from an increase in 101E and 101F entry-level sections. ENG 102, however, which is also a requirement, has been reduced from 94 to 77 sections.
Other departments have not fared as well. Women’s studies courses have dropped from 50 sections in spring 2008 to 34 in spring 2009 mainly due to a reduction in WMST 113, Gender, Race and Class from 32 sections to 21.
Intro-level BUS-prefix courses have been reduced. There are six BUS 101 courses compared to last year’s nine.
SWK 101, Introduction to Social Work has been reduced to one online section, down from one traditional and two online sections in spring 2008.
SOC 101 and PSY 101, the entry-level classes that fulfill the social science requirement for many students, have one extra online section each over spring 2008. PHIL 102, Critical Thinking and Reasoning, has been reduced from 60 sections to 52. Both semesters had 12 online sections of these courses total.
One course that is frequently taken as an arts requirement, ART 106, Art Appreciation, has been reduced from 11 sections in spring 2008 down to seven sections. Out of the 11 sections in 2008, eight were online. This coming semester, six of the seven sections will be online.
One trend among the spring 2009 section changes is highly visible: an increase in the proportion of online to traditional courses.
The increase in online classes is not necessarily due to the cuts affecting the Nevada System of Higher Education’s budget.
“Budget cuts impact but don’t drive decisions at this point. [Part-time instructors] are paid for from Distance Education funds, so it is cost-effective for departments to offer DE courses while retaining [full-time equivalency],” said Judith Osterman, director of Distance Education.
“Part-time instructors can be any instructor teaching a DE course,” she said. “They may be full-time UNLV faculty but they are still listed as [part-time] for budget purposes.” This may make it possible for instructors to be kept in departments.
According to Osterman, the trend seen in increasing distance education courses is not unique to this semester and not necessarily a result of reduced sections.
“There are more [Distance Education] course sections, which are due to student demand,” she said.
Online courses can be more convenient than the alternative for students and instructors alike. Osterman added that there were more than 2,000 additional enrollments in distance education courses in fall 2008 compared to fall 2007.
“There are 2,000 more enrollments in fall 2008 [compared to] fall 2007,” Osterman said.
Although it’s too soon to tell how NSHE’s budget woes will affect the already reduced course availability in the future, one thing remains certain: there will be fewer sections and a higher portion of them will be online.