On March 7 the Faculty Senate will vote on whether or not to ban students from double booking schedules. As a computer science undergraduate, I believe our department has extra motivation to allow the double booking of schedules. No department offers more large lecture classes that are available online for which it makes sense for students with strict schedule limitations to double-book.
During my freshman year, I constantly arrived 10 minutes early to every lecture, grabbed a seat at the front to mitigate the deleterious effects of my poor eyesight, and did my best to never miss a word the professor spoke. Midway through the year, I had the good fortune to have an unavoidable conflict that prevented me from attending class in person – and had a “eureka” moment when I watched my first video lecture.
I could see the board and hear the professor much better. If I ever became distracted or sleepy, I would pause and take a break until I was ready to fully absorb the material. I could speed up the video whenever I felt things weren’t fast-paced enough. I was more motivated to attend office hours so that I could actually get some face time and interact with the lecturer in person (which I would attend armed with detailed questions that I had the time to write down and ponder, thanks to my ability to pause the lecture).
Whenever I missed a word I could instantly rewind. If I became confused I could pause and read the appropriate section in the textbook. Although I realize it’s not for everyone, for me personally, when it comes to lectures of over 300 students, I will almost always prefer watching online than being there in person. As CS enrollments swell and classrooms become increasingly crowded, making sure we fully utilize online resources will only become more important.
Like most Stanford students, my interests are somewhat eclectic. I’ve enjoyed small, interactive seminars on subjects ranging from bioethics to Russian literature. In-person attendance in these small seminar classes is essential, and usually there is no final exam.
During spring of my freshmen year, my PWR class overlapped with my CS 107 class. I never missed a moment of PWR and I never went to a single CS 107 lecture. I loved both classes. In 107, I still benefited from interactions with fellow students in my dorm and during lab section. I still became a recognizable face to the professor thanks to office hours.
Until earlier today, when I read the Stanford Daily article, I assumed I was one of the few students who had decided that double booking classes was in their best interests. Turns out, “on average, one thousand students or more each quarter had courses that overlapped.” That so many Stanford students persistently choose to double book classes seems to be wonderful evidence that, for many individuals, double-booking classes can be in their best interests.
There is a growing feeling of helplessness regarding student influence and participation in University administration. When the issue is brought to the Faculty Senate I hope that first, the vote on whether to ban students from double booking classes occurs separately from the vote on whether classes should start at 8:30 a.m. instead of 9 a.m. Those seem like fairly independent issues.
Second, if there must be a ban on double-booking classes, at least create a method for students to quickly be granted exceptions if they have permission from the professors of the classes that they are double-booking.
Before video recording, it made some sense to prevent double-booking. I think that one day, people will fully adapt to the efficiency and convenience of online education and the 300+ in-person lecture will die out. When all classes are less than 40 people and attendance is always important, then it will again make sense to discourage double-booking. Today, we are in a transitional period in which, in select instances, double-booking classes has merit. Let students choose.
Mark Ulrich ‘14