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The Daily Tar Heel

Provost's office checks up on lectures

The provost’s office began checking up on classes in fall 2013, but only 8 to 12 percent of classes per school are observed every semester.

As UNC’s academic-athletic scandal came to light, the provost started requiring classroom visits to ensure lecture courses are meeting on schedule.

“This audit is about making sure that if a class is listed as group instruction, and it has a schedule that is published by the registrar, then we check to make sure that people actually are in the class, and there’s instruction going on in that class,” said Lynn Williford, assistant provost for institutional research and assessment.

University Registrar Chris Derickson said courses that don’t follow the structure of a lecture class are allowed at UNC, but they must be listed as independent studies.

“If they’re lecture classes, they need to be conducted as lecture classes,” he said. “This isn’t saying that an independent study is of any less value ... independent studies are really rewarding ways to work directly with a faculty member, but those need to be advertised as such.”

Williford said classroom visits are meant to catch any classes that might not be operating correctly, but she said only around 8 to 12 percent of classes in each school are visited.

“We take a representative sample of their courses that meet the criteria — that are traditional lecture courses,” she said.

Williford said because of the large number of lecture classes at UNC, it is not possible to require visits to all of them.

“We had to figure out a way to do this that was sound but reasonable in order to have these feel that it was a valid method,” she said.

Classes are selected at random once a semester for each sample. Before visits are conducted, the provost’s office checks over the samples to make sure they’re representative of each college or school. Instructors are not notified whether their classes are going to be evaluated.

Williford said the provost’s office has never found any lecture classes that were not being taught as expected.

“It’s not necessarily pretty or maybe the most efficient way to do things, but when you’re dealing with a scandal like the University had to, we wanted to make sure we had addressed every issue that was raised in those reports,” Derickson said.

Brandon Wheeler, a first-year biology major, said to his knowledge, none of his classes have ever been visited. He said he thinks UNC is making progress since the scandal.

“I think any movement now is in the right direction,” he said. “That’s at least movement in the right direction.”

Derickson said the University is still searching for better ways to survey the thousands of lecture classes being held at UNC.

“We continue to look for more efficient ways to handle this, whether it be through the classroom evaluation at the end, asking about how the class was conducted, stuff like that,” he said.

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