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Change in course numbering system about to go into effect

by Richard Veilleux - October 15, 2007

When students register for classes next February and March, they will begin using a new, four-digit class numbering system that will replace the current three-digit system.

Departments have been working with the Registrar’s Office and the Graduate School to renumber their courses since the new system was approved by the University Senate in 2005. They have until Nov. 11 to make any last-minute changes to their course numbers.

“Changing the course numbering system is a big change for an institution,” says Jeffrey von Munkwitz-Smith, University registrar.

“But there are good reasons for the change. It’s a worthwhile effort.”

The renumbering will eliminate UConn’s confusing, decades-old three-digit system, replacing it with a cleaner, more transparent four-digit system.

Currently, undergraduate courses are numbered between 100 and 299, while graduate courses fall between 300 and 499.

The new system allots the numbers 1000-1999 to freshman courses; 2000-2999 for sophomores; 3000-3999 to juniors; and 4000-4999 for seniors.

Graduate courses will be numbered from 5000-6999 (5000-5999 for master’s level and 6000-6999 for doctoral level), and courses at the School of Law will be numbered from 7000-7999.

“It’s a relatively small action with multiple ramifications and positive effects,” Gregory Anderson, then head of the ecology and evolutionary biology department, said after the 2005 Senate vote.

“This will help faculty, undergraduates, graduates, transfer students – those coming into or leaving the University – and even high school counselors,” he added. “Really, I can’t think of anybody it would not help.”

The current system, adopted in 1931, confuses external audiences and students, who mistakenly think 200s level courses are for second-year students, as is the case at many other universities.

They also are confused when a junior or senior level course has a lower number than a sophomore-level course, which occurs if the lower numbers are the only ones available when a department adds a course for juniors and seniors.

Now, however, there will be plenty of room to add new courses in a more logical sequence, says Henkel. He has asked department heads to leave room for future additions when renumbering their courses.

The process, originally scheduled to conclude last year, with the new numbers in operation for the current academic year, was extended a year when a number of faculty and departments requested more time so they could better align their courses with the larger set of numbers available.

The results have been positive, says von Munkwitz-Smith.

“One thing that came out is that there’s more consistency with specialty courses,” says von Munkwitz-Smith.

“Certain numbers have been reserved at every level, so if you see, for instance, a course that ends in the number 81 or 91, you know it’s an internship. Or, if it ends in an 87 or 97, you know it’s an honors thesis.

“That was not possible,” he says, “when there were only 300 numbers available in total for undergraduate studies.”

Similarly, at the graduate level, the 900 series (5900 and 6900) have been reserved for University-wide courses that are not specific to a discipline.

The Graduate School also used the opportunity to clean up “ghost” courses, those that are in the catalogue but haven’t been taught for years because, for example, the professor who created them left the University, or the course ceased to be popular.

Henkel and von Munkwitz-Smith anticipate some confusion when the new system first rolls out, but neither believe it will be a serious problem.

“Students will have to get used to the terminology,” says Henkel.

“Right now, they’re used to saying ‘Should I take Psychology 325?’ While, beginning in February, they’ll have to say ‘Should I take Psychology 5140?’ There will be a bit of an adjustment period.”

A web site, accessible from the registrar’s home page or at web.uconn.edu/courserenumbering/.

The site lists all UConn’s courses with their three-digit number, and converts them to the new four-digit number, and vice versa.

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