Obsolete Course Policy

 A. Background and Rationale
In 2009-2010, the University Academic Planning Council supported the obsolete course project, which was undertaken to remove courses from the full course catalog that had not been offered for an extended period of time.  Courses that had not been taught for six or more years were identified and lists were sent to course subject owners for review and decisions about which courses should be deleted.  

A total of 4185 courses were identified that had not been taught for six or more years; 3093 (74%) of the identified courses had not been taught for 10 or more years.  Of the 4185 courses identified, 2435 (58%) were approved for deletion by the departments that owned the course subjects, and just 1941 (63%) of the courses that had not been taught for at least 10 years were deleted.

When this obsolete course project was completed a plan was put in place to repeat this review of obsolete courses every five years.  There are several reasons to remove obsolete courses from the course catalog.  It is a matter of truth in advertising so that the courses that are on the books are courses that students may expect to be taught on a regular basis.  It helps advisors plan more effectively with students. And a streamlined courses array provides efficiencies in management of administrative workload.  

Courses that have not been taught in eight or more years are unlikely to be integral parts of any curriculum. If a course that has not been taught in eight years were to be taught again it is very likely that an entirely new syllabus would need to be constructed and changes made to elements such as the course description, prerequisites etc. to bring the course up to date with current scholarship.  These revisions would require careful consideration of the kind similar to proposing a new course.   

The campus is due to repeat this exercise in 2015-16.  The 2009-10 project was a collaborative effort of the Office of the Divisional Committees (which approved courses at the time), Academic Planning and Institutional Research, and the Office of the Registrar.  It was a labor intensive, high-touch project that involved dozens of hours of time for numerous staff members in these campus-level offices and required a tremendous time commitment by the departments and school/college deans’ offices to do the same.  

As we begin planning for the 2015-16 project we have identified a total of 2036 courses in 168 course subject that have not been taught in the past eight years; 915 of those courses were on the list of courses five years ago and have not been offered during the intervening years.  To repeat the process used five years ago will carry a substantial and distributed workload burden.  We propose to replace the episodic review of the full list of courses with a policy that results in an on-going maintenance approach to removing courses that are not being taught in the past eight years and consequently are not part of any program curriculum.  

 B. Proposed Policy 
To more efficiently conduct the review of obsolete courses we propose that a process for automatically discontinuing obsolete courses be put in place.  The Office of Academic Planning and Institutional Research and the Office of the Registrar will collaborate to identify courses that have not been taught in eight or more years. Departments would be notified of courses in their subject listing that are on this list and scheduled to be deleted. Departments would be given an opportunity to request an extension of up to two years if they can:

Provide a rationale for why the course has not been taught in the past but will be in the near future.
Explain how the course that they propose to teach aligns with the current course as described.
Provide a plan for including the course in their course array where it will be used regularly in a meaningful way.

Notification will be sent to the chair of the department/academic unit that houses the subject listing and to the school or college curriculum coordinator.  Departments would have approximately six months from notification that a course has been included on the list of courses to be discontinued to schedule the course, notify the RO that the course will be scheduled in the next year, or appeal for an extension.  If the course is not scheduled or an extension is not granted, the course will be discontinued and then deleted from the course catalog by the Office of the Registrar.

In addition to courses that have not been offered, courses that were offered but had an enrollment of  0 over the course of the past eight years (fall, spring and summer terms included) will be also be identified.  The A2 session (courses taken on a UW-Madison study abroad program) and transfer credit will be excluded as enrollment in these represent off-campus enrollment usually for course equivalency purposes.  

Independent study courses (numbered x99, x98, x89, 681, 682, 691, 692) and those created specifically for study abroad equivalencies (the SAB subject and those in other subjects that include the phrase “study abroad” in the title) will be excluded from this review.

 C. Course Activity Maintenance Procedure
An annual review of course offering activity will be conducted by the Office of the Registrar (RO) and the Office of Academic Planning and Institutional Research.  The procedural steps of this review will be as follows:

1. RO will produce a report identifying all courses that have not been taught in at least eight years.
2. The identified courses will be placed on a printer-friendly web page which will be sorted by school/college and department.
3. A memo will be sent to school/college curriculum coordinators and subject listing owners (department chairs and program directors), with encouragement to notify their curriculum committees, and informing them of the following:
a. The UAPC approved policy to discontinue obsolete courses;
b. That they have courses that are scheduled to be discontinued;
      c. The process to notify the RO that a course has been or will be scheduled;
      d. The process to appeal for an extension;
      e . The deadline by which response is required if they intend to offer the course in the next calendar year.
4. If no response is received regarding the specified courses by the deadline, RO will discontinue the courses on the list and update the degree audit system accordingly.
5. If a notification is received that a course will be offered within the next calendar year, RO will flag that course and track whether or not the course is indeed scheduled during that year.  If it is not, the course will automatically be discontinued during the next annual review cycle; the department and school/college curriculum coordinators will be notified of the discontinuation.

The review cycle will be initiated in April each year when the RO will generate and post the reports identifying course subject to discontinuation. The notification to department chairs and school/college curriculum coordinators will occur in early May. Parties will have until October 15 to notify RO of specific courses intended to be offered in the next calendar year or complete the appeal process for an extension.  

The appeal process will be handled using a workflow process similar to the course approval process. Subject owners may complete an appeal form requesting an extension of up to two years.  The appeal must be approved by their school/college curriculum committee and the University Curriculum Committee.  Requests for extensions must be initiated and completely approved within the six month review window. If the appeal is successful they have an additional two years to offer the course during which the course will be exempt from the annual obsolete course review.  If the course is not offered in this two year period it will automatically be discontinued.

 D. Implementation Plan

In May 2016, the Office of the Registrar identified 1649 courses across 157 subject listings with no student enrollment since spring 2008 (1084 term). These courses are subject to inactivation pending an Obsolete Course Review period.

Each subject listing with courses identified for inactivation has its own spreadsheet in a Box folder. All Course Coordinators and Online Course Proposal “approvers and watchers” at the subject and school/college level were invited to collaborate in the Obsolete Course Review in Box.

Subject owners have until October 3, 2016, to review identified courses and update the spreadsheet in Box if any courses will be offered in the 2016-17 academic year (Fall 2016, Spring 2017, or Summer 2017).

Course offerings identified on the subject spreadsheet in Box will prevent course inactivation in the 2016-17 academic year. If the course is not offered or receives no enrollment, it will automatically be inactivated in the 2017-18 academic year.

Cross-listed courses can be reviewed independently by each subject listing. If at least one subject listing indicates the course will be offered, it remains active for all cross listings.

An Obsolete Course Waiver Request is available. Approved waivers retain the course for a period of two years. If the course does not receive enrollment during the two-year extension, it will automatically be inactivated. Waiver requests must be initiated and completely approved by appropriate school/college curriculum committees by November 1, 2016.


Keywords:obsolete courses   Doc ID:53623
Owner:Michelle Y.Group:Courses and Academic Programs
Created:2015-07-03 12:08 CDTUpdated:2016-06-15 15:31 CDT
Sites:Courses and Academic Programs
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