KSU analyzes course sections

Suzi Starheim

Faculty given grants to determine class size

Faculty given grants to determine class size

Kent State is funding course size experiments to facilitate active learning for students.

Provost Robert Frank said the university began giving grants to faculty so they could develop different course formats for larger classes.

“We’ve targeted classes that students are most likely to be in and said to faculty, ‘We will give you this amount of money to give you time to rethink how you offer this class and how you do it,’” Frank said.

This is a time to rethink how you match class activities and class material with what students need as learners, he added.

“We teach so many different things here, it’s really hard to come up with one rule that fits all,” Frank said. “Some of it is how faculty are most comfortable presenting material. We know when you feel more comfortable you are going to be a different teacher.”

Associate provost Stephane Booth said determining class sizes is difficult for departments because of all the factors that come into play.

These factors include the number of faculty, students, rooms and seats in university classrooms.

“The department looks at what is it they want students to learn in that course,” Booth said. “They are looking at how they want students to learn and can that be done in a large section or smaller section.”

Booth said even if course sections had to be larger, alternative options would be offered to engage students like break out sessions and online supplements.

“We don’t have enough rooms to have 100 students in every room,” Booth added.

Cost-effective courses

Courses with high student-to-professor ratios are the most costly to run, Frank said.

“We don’t have enough rooms to have 100 students in every room,” Booth added.

Cost-effective courses

Courses with high student-to-professor ratios are the most costly to run, Frank said.

“We have said ‘consider what is the best way to teach,’ and, ‘what are the most cost effective ways to teach?’” Frank said. “We encourage deans and chairs to look at those two measures, and it would be foolhardy not to recognize that running classes of eight people is very expensive.”

Frank said the most costly courses to run are the nursing courses.

“These are just high intensity courses and so they are going to be more costly to manage,” he added.

Laura Dzurec, dean of the College of Nursing, said this is due to state laws about supervising nursing students in clinical settings as well as finding expert faculty to supervise.

“You cannot practice nursing without a license, so our students have to be supervised, and we cannot have more than ten in the clinical area by state law,” Dzurec said. “There is only so much we can do because there is size limitation.”

Dzurec said nursing courses can range from small ten-person classes all the way up to 160-person lectures. The average class size is about 40 to 60 students.

“Clinical space, classroom space and clinical faculty really limit us,” she added. “It’s very complex choreography. It’s a real juggling act.”

Booth said cost certainly comes into play.

“We can’t run every class at 20,” Booth said. “It depends on what it is you are trying to accomplish, and maybe things can be accomplished in a large class as well as a small class.”

When it comes to the nursing program, Booth said small course sizes are very justified.

“Any place where they would be out in the field, students would have to be certified,” Booth added. “You wouldn’t want to be watching too many students at one time.”


Kelsey Barber, sophomore fashion merchandizing major, said the largest class she has been was a 350-person psychology course, and the smallest was an honors Seven Ideas course of 15 people.

Barber said she benefitted much more from the smaller Seven Ideas course and even got a better grade in there due to the one-on-one nature of the class.

Barber said of her large lecture that she “hated it.”

“I couldn’t concentrate at all,” she added. “I definitely think I did better in the other class because of the smaller size.”

Frank said he thinks most professors prefer classes that are large enough to facilitate group discussion.

“That said, in general, most people in smaller classes tend to engage students more and we know the more active students are, the more likely they are to retain material,” Frank said.

“Usually departments say ‘in this discipline, these are the kinds of course sizes you can have and be effective at what you are doing,’” he added.

Booth said her ideal number is what an average course is across the university.

“If I had my preference, for me I like to see a course around 30 or 35,” Booth said.

Frank said overall, it’s about availability for Kent State students.

“We really want to make more classes available to students in non-traditional delivery,” Frank said. “It’s just making courses available in the right way for students.”

Contact academic affairs reporter Suzi Starheim at [email protected].