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Curriculum

Curriculum

  1. What are the Unit Requirements under the Semester Calendar?
  2. What will be the process for approving and reviewing a new semester curriculum for all academic programs?
  3. How will quarter units be converted to semester units?
  4. How will departments make changes to their curriculum in converting to semesters?
  5. How will the general education curriculum be affected? (Answer has been revised.)
  6. How will conversion from the quarter to the semester system impact course content?
  7. How will conversion affect the availability of courses?
  8. Will class sizes change?
  9. How will conversion from a quarter to the semester calendar impact the number of textbooks and the match between textbooks and courses?
  10. How will academic policies change under conversion?
  11. What will course conversion look like?  Will all 4-unit classes become 3-unit classes?
  12. If a department currently offers a course with 10 sections in each of fall, winter, and spring quarters, would it be offered with 15 sections in each of fall and spring semesters?  Are there enough instructors for that?

1. What are the Unit Requirements under the Semester Calendar?

California Code Title 5 outlines various requirements for lower division and upper division units as well as residence requirements. The residence and LD/UD requirements are not exclusive. (That is, 9 of the 48 GE units must be in residence and 9 must be upper division. These can be the same or different 9 units.)

The minimum requirements are summarized in the table below. Note that these requirements allow for a large number of elective units. (48 GE + 24 BA + 48 electives = 120 units) CPP programs currently are well above the minimum unit requirements for BA and BS and 4 units below the minimum requirement for GE.

 TotalResidenceLDUD
Total 120 30
24 are UD
  For BA, 40
GE 48 9 39 9
BA (core) 24 12   12
BS (core) 36 12   18
Masters 30
50% organized for grad students
Max of 6 for thesis/project
21    

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2. What will be the process for approving and reviewing a new semester curriculum for all academic programs?

The Senate Academic Programs and General Education committees, and the University Curriculum Committee will most likely be the ones looking at curriculum issues, although any standing committee can be assigned work outside their normal duties in order to expedite certain items. Departments could use their existing department curriculum committees to develop their new curricula or appoint special committees for this purpose. The standing committees will most likely deal with other issues related to conversion as well. For example the Academic Affairs Committee will need to revise calendars and policies related to registration, etc. It is likely that most of the Senate referrals will come at the same time for review; therefore AP/GE could have a large workload. In order to expedite the work, assigned time could be given to the committee members. There is also the option that the Senate could appoint an ad hoc committee to help expedite the work.

The extent of review required for the new curricula will depend on the nature of the changes. Substantial changes will need to go through the Academic Programs Committee. Internal changes will either require approval at the college level, or the approval of the University Curriculum Committee. Significant changes to GE courses will be reviewed by the Senate GE Committee. Although not all changes will be considered substantial, this should not be construed to mean that the amount of work to make the changes will not be significant. There will be considerable work for the college curriculum committees and coordinators who will need to review all requests, including those that are internal.

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3. How will quarter units be converted to semester units?

Typically, when converting from quarter units to semester units, quarter units are divided by 1.5 to calculate semester values. Each quarter unit is equivalent to two-thirds of a semester unit. It will be up to each department to determine how the units will be assigned to particular courses in their new curriculum plan.

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4. How will departments make changes to their curriculum in converting to semesters?

There is a range of possibilities in how departments might change their curriculum. A department may choose to simply convert their curriculum, combining three quarter courses into two semester courses. Conversely, a department might take the opportunity to revise their curriculum, to make significant changes to the structure (meaning changes in focus and emphasis) to meet current industry demands or research interests. For most departments, reviewing comparable academic programs that are taught on semester campuses will be the starting point. Possible actions are described here.

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5. How will the general education curriculum be affected?

The faculty have choices to make about how General Education will operate under a semester-based calendar. They could decide to use the conversion as an opportunity to revise the GE program structure into a new model such as a thematic approach, or they could decide to keep the current structure. Any changes will need to keep in mind the requirements outlined in CSU Executive Order 1065, as well as the articulation agreements that we have with our feeder community colleges.

Executive Order 1065 requires 72 quarter units or 48 semester units of GE. CPP currently has 17 courses of 4 units each, totaling only 68 quarter units, in its GE curriculum. Course-wise conversion of these 17 courses into 3 unit semester courses would produce 51 units of GE.  Consequently, it is probable that the number of required GE courses will be reduced or courses consolidated under a semester calendar.

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6. How will conversion from the quarter to the semester system impact course content?

There are two basic approaches to addressing course content when converting from quarters to semesters: constant format and constant content.

  • Constant format method. Semester courses retain the same credit-hour value as on the quarter system, but course content is increased.
  • Constant content method. Course content remains the same but is spread over a longer period of time; as a result, the number of credits awarded per course is reduced.

Each department will choose the model that best fits its needs. To create semester courses from stand-alone quarter courses, departments will have to add additional content to existing courses or combine the content from two quarter courses into one semester course. Some existing quarter courses could be chopped up with the components added to other quarter courses to create semester courses. Three quarter course sequences could be easily converted to two semester course sequences.

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7. How will conversion affect the availability of courses?

Course availability is impacted by the availability of the qualified faculty and facilities, as well as a minimum number of enrolled students. If there are no changes in the number of faculty and students, course availability should be the same following conversion. During the conversion it is expected that the availability of faculty will not be adversely affected. Temporary faculty will replace faculty who receive assigned time to develop or approve the new curricula and those faculty who receive stipends will still be available for teaching.

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8. Will class sizes change?

There is no necessary change in class size but it is hard to predict at this stage the result on class size of a change to a semester system because this will be determined by the faculty when they revised the curriculum in their programs. There may be some larger classes because of changes in enrollment patterns, changes in scheduling of courses, or changes in departments’ instructional models. The following schools did see a 10-15% increase in the number of classes with enrollment of over 50 students: Minnesota, Georgia Tech, Utah State. Among the various factors that influence class size, the academic calendar is a minor one.

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9. How will conversion from a quarter to the semester calendar impact the number of textbooks and the match between textbooks and courses?

Most instructional materials and textbooks are designed for semesters rather than quarters. However, many publishers will customize textbooks (remove chapters from textbooks to reduce content and cost) to fit quarter programs. Utilizing materials designed for the semester system on the quarter system may mean that students use a smaller portion of their textbooks or related materials and sections of books are skipped, shortened, or used less effectively than they were designed to be. On the other hand, since many textbooks are designed for semester length courses, more material could be used in quarter courses or the same textbook could be used for 2 or more sequential quarter classes. Students on a semester calendar will take fewer courses overall but may take more courses simultaneously than students on a quarter calendar. As a result, the total cost of books might well be lower on a semester system, although the dollar outlay at one given time might be more.

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10. How will academic policies change under conversion?

In many cases, official guidance (e.g. Executive Orders or Coded Memoranda) sets minima or maxima and the Senate will exercise its normal judgment in adopting new, semester-based values. Any academic policy that is based on ‘units’ or ‘academic terms’ will need to be revised by the Academic Senate following standard procedures. Some of the conversions might be simply mathematical, converting from quarter to semester units by multiplying by two-thirds (e.g. 120 units for a bachelors degree or 30 units for a masters degree) but, in some cases multiplying the current value by 2/3 might not yield an integer and a rounding decision will have to be made.

There are many policies that will not need to change (e.g. highest grade needed to repeat a course). Some current policies are necessitated by a quarter calendar and might be changed or not, depending on the judgment of the Senate. Some changes might be made to take advantage of the length of a semester, although such changes will not be necessitated by conversion to a semester calendar.

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11. What will course conversion look like?  Will all 4-unit courses become 3-unit courses?

Faculty will need to consider several factors when converting their programs into a semester model.  Some of those factors are:

  1. One 4-unit quarter course translates into one 3-unit semester course.  (The exact formula to convert quarter units into semester units is to multiply by 2/3.)
  2. A sequence of three 4-unit courses over three quarters translates most easily into two 4-unit classes over two semesters. (12 × 2/3 = 8)
  3. At most universities under the semester system, 3-unit courses are much more common than 4-unit courses.
  4. Over 40% of our students transfer from other CSU campuses and community colleges, virtually all of which are on the semester system, and those students request to articulate mostly 3-unit semester courses.
  5. Students in the CSU quarter system complete the equivalent of 45 4-unit classes including 72 units of general education courses (CPP students currently are required to take only 68 GE units).  Students in the CSU semester system complete the equivalent of 40 3-unit classes, including 48 units of GE.
  6. Including the same number of courses in a program in the semester system as are offered now in the quarter system is likely to result in offering the courses less often or offering more courses concurrently.
  7. Including a large number of 4-unit (semester) courses in a semester program is likely to reduce the number of courses students take to complete the program.

Given all of these factors, it is likely that programs in the semester system will consist of fewer courses than are currently offered and that most of the courses will be 3-unit courses.  The final structure of the programs will be decided by the faculty in the departments that offer the programs.

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12. If a department currently offers a course with 10 sections in each of fall, winter, and spring quarters, would it be offered with 15 sections in each of fall and spring semesters?  Are there enough instructors for that? 

The number of sections offered each term will need to increase for the course described in the question, in order to  accommodate all the students who need the course.  There a few reasons why there should be enough instructors to handle this.  Many lower division 4-unit quarter courses will become 3-unit semester courses, so lecturers who teach 12 units (or three classes) in the quarter system will be able to teach 4 classes in the semester system.  In addition, it is expected that some classes will be combined in the conversion from quarter to semester so that instructors who taught two courses in the quarter system will be teaching one course in the semester system.


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Questions/Comments

Do you have questions? Would you like to comment on this topic?
Please email us at Academic Calendar Conversion