Fall 2018 Update
Northwestern University Provost Jonathan Holloway has appointed a faculty-led workgroup charged with advising on the implementation of winter/spring calendar changes and final exam administration flexibility, which the University Registrar will lead, and considering fall quarter calendar opportunities, including its structure, timing, and educational offerings.
The group is chaired by Bob Gundlach, Director of the Cook Family Writing Program in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Linguistics, and Karen Smilowitz, the James N. and Margie M. Krebs Professor of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences within the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. The full list of members is available HERE.
Exam Administration Survey
The Academic Calendar Advisory Group is working with the University Registrar to explore how the university can offer greater flexibility for final exam administration. The purpose is to address the challenges that students experience in regard to start dates for summer internships, study abroad, and other programs, due to the relatively late-ending academic year at Northwestern.
To that end, the group will survey a sample of faculty regarding their current practices, including the types and formats of graded work produced by students at the end of the term, and flexibility in timing or format of final exams. Data on current practices for final assessment, as well as on interest in flexible final exam options will help shape proposed changes.
Possible changes include the optional use—by faculty—of early or remote exams, and the establishment of a single, central protocol for those seeking to use these options, including the implementation of software to support this process. The data collected will assist the group as it advises the Provost and the University Registrar as to how best to implement potential changes. Based on findings, the University will pilot various flexibility initiatives in the 2019-2020 Academic year, in order to assess their effectiveness before fully implementing these options across the university. Implementation will work within school-based governance and policies.
Faculty will not be required to offer exam flexibility. Offering early or remote exams will occur only at the faculty member’s discretion within the context of the school in which they teach.
Fall Quarter Opportunities
The Academic Calendar Advisory Group will advise the Provost on possible adjustments to the fall quarter calendar, which could include beginning classes one week earlier. The purpose of potential changes would be to allow students more time to return to class before fall recruiting season for jobs and fellowships and possibly end the quarter earlier to ease travel burdens. The Group will also examine possibilities for the creation of a December term (D-term) which would take place between Fall Quarter and Winter Break. No recommendations have been made yet on fall quarter structure, timing, and educational offerings.
Summer 2018 Update
Northwestern University Provost Jonathan Holloway has appointed two faculty members to co-chair a faculty workgroup charged with advising on the implementation of winter/spring calendar changes and considering fall quarter calendar opportunities, which could include providing a window for an innovative, concentrated period of instruction between the fall and winter quarters.
Bob Gundlach, Director of the Cook Family Writing Program in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Linguistics, and Karen Smilowitz, the Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence and Professor of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences within the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, will partner with Holloway this summer to identify Northwestern faculty to serve on the workgroup.
This effort stems from Northwestern’s ongoing examination of its academic calendar and educational offerings, which has included the Faculty Senate’s unanimous endorsement in spring 2017 of proposed changes to the calendar, Commencement date, and final exam administration. Since then, University staff members have worked to develop implementation plans to operationalize the proposed changes.
President Morton Schapiro and Holloway have approved changes related to Spring Break, final exam administration, and Commencement for adoption as soon as the 2019–20 academic year. These changes include:
- Extending Spring Break—The only break after the Winter Recess will now be extended to mitigate the existing challenges associated with the current 23-week stretch between January and June. The change will expand the current nine-day break by one to two days by optimizing final exam periods and adding a spring holiday.
- Final Exam Administration—The proposed changes aim to provide faculty and students more flexibility on the administration of exams to address challenges stemming from Northwestern’s late-ending academic year and the lack of central processes for requesting scheduling accommodations. The proposal includes the optional use—by faculty—of early or remote exams, and the establishment of a single, central protocol for those seeking to use these options, including the implementation of software to support this process. Implementation will work within school-based governance and policies.
- Commencement Date—Commencement will now be held closer to the end of classes and finals, with the goal of ending the school year earlier and increasing participation in our graduation ceremonies.
The President and Provost have also requested more detailed proposals around the academic opportunities for fall quarter—which Gundlach’s and Smilowitz’s workgroup will develop—in addition to other potential fall quarter changes.