How can departments/programs avoid creating problems with "Meets-With" arrangements?
Advice on the need to avoid problems when using topics courses in "meets-with" arrangements to temporarily cross-list courses.
What are cross-listed courses? What are meets-with courses?Cross-listing exists when a permanent course is offered by two or more departments. Generally, one instructor teaches the same material to all students enrolled, regardless of the subject listing through which the student enrolled. With the exception of the “subject”, all of the information about the course (number, credits, catalog description, Course ID) is identical for every offering.
Meets-with is a temporary arrangement in which two distinct courses are linked in some way. Usually, the “link” occurs when all students enrolled attend the same lecture, but they separate to have different discussion sections. The different subject matter is conveyed in the discussion sections. For example, a course on “Plants and Man” might require students who enroll in Botany to complete labs (appropriate to Biological Science credit), while those who enroll through History of Science would participate in discussion sections (appropriate to Humanities credit). The students who enroll in each of the linked components receive instruction appropriate to the component in which they enrolled.
Why do departments and programs use meets-with courses?
Some interdisciplinary programs find it convenient to use topics courses to create “meets with” arrangements with regular courses offered by traditional departments. These topics serve as “temporary cross listings” that expand their programs’ course listings. The faculty in these programs stress that such arrangements are essential to their program array – particularly in situations where program faculty have joint appointments.
What problems arise with using meets-with courses? How can they be avoided?
Many (if not most) courses taken by undergraduates carry "course designations" that signal to students in L&S and/or across the university how those courses can be used to meet their degree requirements. These designations include "breadth" and "level" indicators, as well as General Education indicators for Communication, Quantitative Reasoning, and Ethnic Studies.
In cases where all students enrolled experience the same course – that is, there is no distinction made between the subjects through which they enrolled, and the arrangement is used as a "temporary cross list" - departments and programs are responsible for ensuring that all students receive the same type of credit for the courses they are taking. This means that the people who schedule these arrangements must be sure that all course indicators associated with the courses match.
One strategy for achieving this is for departments and programs to have a range of topics courses available at different levels, so courses with matching level attributes may be selected. If no appropriate match can be found, topics courses lacking course attributes should be used for all of the linked components. In cases where departments have topics courses that carry breadth or (rarely) General Education indicators, those courses should only meet with regular courses that carry the identical indicators.
Why does this matter?
All L&S and General Education course designations are carefully reviewed and approved by the faculty through the course approval process. The integrity of the curriculum depends on accurately representing to students how courses count. It is important to advertise to students clearly and accurately at the time of enrollment what designations are carried by courses, so they may make choices based on how courses count toward meeting degree and major requirements. It is regarded as inappropriate to advertise to students through the Schedule of Courses that the course that satisfies one type of requirement, then deliver a course that does not meet those requirements (or that meets other, different requirements).
Meets-with courses often confuse students, even in cases where the paired courses are different and deliver different types of educational experiences. For this reason, we warn students who enroll in "meets with" courses that they should not assume that they have earned the same type of credit as students who may have enrolled through a different course with which their course meets; neither should they assume they can switch enrollment from one course to another, or attend discussion sections or labs in which they have not enrolled.
These policies are hard to enforce when mis-matched courses are identical, and sorting out "mis-matched meets with" arrangements so all students receive the same type of credit, appropriate to the course, requires substantial administrative time. Departments should therefore avoid creating these situations. When they do occur, departments will be required to assume responsibility for communicating with students, filing all required paperwork for any individual degree audit exceptions that may be required, and ensuring that students are treated fairly despite the department's mistake.
Issues with meets with courses should be brought to the attention of Assistant Dean Elaine Klein (emklein<at>ls.wisc.edu).