Course Selection Questions Answered
Understand how the system works so you can make it work for you
Published: Monday, November 7, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 13:11
2. The professor may want to include guest speakers who are available only in the evening.
3. It may be a course in which too few students from a single program are interested. Not enough students would take the course to justify offering it if we did not schedule it when all MBA students have access.
4. If it is the first time we have offered the course, we usually start with one section so it can be fine-tuned and we can gauge demand.
Why can't you just put popular classes in larger rooms?
1. We may not have a larger room available at that time. We are very close to capacity every night of the week and, for some room sizes, during the day as well.
2. In some courses, a larger class would compromise the learning experience. In some cases, adding ten or 100 students won't make much of a difference, and we do it. In others, especially those that rely on significant interaction among the students, it makes a big difference.
3. If the course is new, we like to keep the class on the small side. Mid-course corrections are easier to make with a smaller class.
If there is a lot of student demand for a new course, why don't you always offer it right away?
There are a number of reasons:
1. We have to ask ourselves whether business school is the best place to learn the subject. First, even if there were a high demand for courses in Mandarin, linear algebra, graphic design, or C++, we wouldn't offer them at Stern since they aren't fundamentally business subjects, and we have no particular expertise in teaching them. Second, some industry-specific knowledge is better gained on the job. We will consider offering a course about a particular industry if there is well-developed theory underlying it that is unique to the industry. If the theory is common to many industries, we are more likely to offer a version of an existing course that focuses on the industry (e.g., "Mergers and Acquisitions" with an EMT focus).
2. It can be hard to make changes after the schedule is set. In December, we will start putting together the teaching schedule for the following academic year, and teaching assignments for full-time faculty will be pretty much locked in by March. As you know, we still make changes, but those are on the margin and can be quite tricky to engineer. The schedules of roughly 200 full-time and 150 part-time professors have to be pieced together like a big puzzle, taking into account the class schedules of several different programs (Langone, full-time MBA, undergraduate, Executive MBA, TRIUM, and other Executive programs), faculty expertise, faculty preferences, sabbaticals, expected availability of adjunct faculty, expected student enrollments, the relative timing of courses that will appeal to the same students, which courses are needed for specializations, how each course meets (once or twice a week, for a half or whole semester, during intensives), room sizes, etc. Thus, changing a single element is rarely a simple proposition. However, we try and often succeed.
3. Creating a new course is a major investment. Either a professor must spend months preparing an outline, readings, content, etc. or we have to find someone who has taught the course effectively elsewhere and is willing to do it here. And if the course addresses a specific practitioner knowhow, we may not have faculty with the appropriate focus and must look outside the school, usually for a professional who has an interest in and aptitude for teaching. It's rare enough to find a professional who wants to teach and has the time. It's even more rare to find someone we believe will do well in the classroom. Even when we find someone, full-time faculty must spend a significant amount of time helping him or her craft the course, create assignments, learn how to assess student performance, etc.
4. Demand may not be as high as you think. Sometimes, even though it seems that student interest is high, when it comes to registering, there aren't enough of you to fill a section. That's due to something we study in marketing: Consumer intentions are not as highly correlated with their behavior as you might expect. (Ask Professor Morwitz about her research for an interesting discussion of this topic.) We suspect that one of the biggest reasons is that, in isolation, a course may sound great, but pitched against others in the same term or same time slot, it loses out to courses that may be even more relevant to your career, more conveniently scheduled, have known faculty, etc. So, most of the time, if you propose a course and give us a list of students who say they will take it, you'll find that not even half actually will.
Why is the course I want only offered opposite another course I want?
We try hard not to let that happen. Sometimes it's easy when courses likely to interest the same student are obvious (e.g., "Entertainment Finance" and "Globalization of the Entertainment Industry"). And we are careful about what we schedule opposite the most popular electives. However, we can't always anticipate what combinations students will want, and even when we can, we simply can't always accommodate them. Picture a sequence of events that starts with moving a section of "Data Mining" from Thursday evening to Monday and Wednesday morning, and ends with having no one to teach a Saturday section of "Leadership in Organizations." It happens.