Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gaming Clusters

We have this system we're testing out, where students take a cluster of classes focused on the same issue or problem from different academic points of view. The classes are all supposed to count for their general education stuff.

One of the classes being offered next semester is a section of something a lot of our students want to take. But the regular sections are all full, and have been for weeks.

If you know anything about college students, you know that getting a bunch of them to take and pass X number of classes in a specific time frame isn't always going to work. Someone's going to fail one, or get really sick and have to drop, or decide s/he hates one of the instructors, and so on. So as TPTB were planning this all out for the test, they agreed that there'd be no penalty for students who decided to drop a cluster class or whatever. But TPTB haven't said as much out loud in the hearing of most students. Sure, if a student has a problem, TPTB will let them drop a course, but they won't let the student know ahead of time.

That means that any student who really wants the one course could sign up for the cluster, wait until a week or two into the semester, and then drop the other cluster course(s), and s/he would have the course s/he wants without the cluster. It's gaming the system. But the system sucks for a lot of students.

Here's the question: should I tell students how to game the system so that they can take the course they really want/need?

(This cluster course was arranged without concern for our departmental issues, of course. It's lucky that it happens to be an extra section of what some students need, but TPTB really don't give a shit about our department's staffing issues. But that's a rant for another time.)


  1. why shouldn't you tell them? even if the word has not been officially sent out, you have good reason to believe the drop/add will be approved. you obviously can't guarantee that, not being a TPTB.

    it would all be easier if this one class about doo-dah was just more available. unnecessary drop/adds are just disruptive for students and profs, i think. if someone signs up for a cluster and drops more than one class, needing then to add more than one class, that sounds super-disruptive.

  2. Anonymous5:33 AM

    I think the concern should be for the other folks teaching in the cluster... If lots of students register for the cluster then drop the other courses, then their sections will suddenly disappear...