Cap sizes of classes can change without warning, disadvantaging both students and professors, said a leader of UCF’s chapter of the United Faculty of Florida.
“We don’t have any language in the contract that specifically states that cap sizes cannot change on us,” said Jennifer Sandoval, grievance chair of the UFF at UCF. “And there are some general arguments about quality of instruction at a certain size for students.”
In a press conference on Oct. 10, Sandoval and the president of UFF-UCF, Scott Launier, said when a cap size on a class is tampered with it can only lead to problems. Launier said that not only would this be an issue for the professor, but student education would also be negatively affected.
Marc Martinez, a senior majoring in biomedical sciences, said he thinks all of his teachers pushed straight memorization of facts because of their inability to engage one-on-one with their students in classes that are capped too large.
“I feel like with smaller classes I would actually learn it and retain it instead of just learn it for the exam and forget it,” Martinez said.
Launier said that from a professor’s standpoint even he feels the large cap sizes are doing a disservice to his students and himself.
“I teach Writing Instruction where my classes are capped at 25,” Launier said. “If all of a sudden they change it to 50, what does that look like to try and give feedback to twice as many students when it’s already hard to give feedback to 25?”
Rachel Williams, a UCF spokeswoman, says class cap sizes are constantly evolving and are based on the demand of the course for the semester.
“Cap sizes are considered at least six months in advance, as that’s when future class schedules are being created,” Williams said. “However, this remains fluid until classes begin to make adjustments based on demand, the location of where the classes can be held, the instructors available to teach, and so on.”
Launier and Sandoval made it clear that the discipline of the class plays a major role in the size of the class. However, the pair still agreed that language should be added in the organization’s contract to rectify that class sizes should stay at their most effective limits.
In UCF’s College of Business, courses offer what is called a “lecture capture,” which provides a recording of the lecture for students to access because the classroom does not physically have enough space to hold all the students registered for the class.
“They only have seats for 400 students even if they’re going to enroll 2,000 students in a section,” Sandoval said. “And that’s not, maybe, everyone’s preferred way to go to college.”
Some professors who teach in these kinds of classes, however, didn’t see a problem with the large class size.
Carolyn Massiah is a professor at UCF who teaches Principles of Marketing, with a class size of 1,246 students. Her classroom only accommodates 285 students, she said, so the course offers a lecture capture.
“I think any professor would tell you they would rather meet and interact and engage with each of their students, and even more important have them interact and engage with their other classmates,” Massiah said. “It’s just that we are a very sizeable college. We have to balance that desire with our capacity issue.”
Massiah also spoke highly about the live streaming aspect of the lecture capture, which has less than a 30-second delay of real time. Students are able to tune in at the same time and feel as if they are really in the class.
Lynn Becker, a professor of two sections of Management of Organizations, said she also didn’t mind the lecture capture aspect of the course. One section she teaches is an honors course and only has around 20 students, but a lecture capture is needed for her section of 1,300 students.
“I still try to have two-way communication and engage with my students,” Becker said. “Just like I do in my honors course.”
Both Massiah and Becker, when asked if they had ever had their cap size changed on them unexpectedly, said it had never been too dramatic to where it caused an issue.
“It was only a moderate change,” Becker said. “We were notified and it was only because there was such a high demand from students for the course.”
The lecture capture program will be replaced next semester by a new type of course design.
Nicole Czubkowski, a freshman majoring in marketing, said she didn’t mind the large size of her macroeconomics lecture. Being an early riser, she actually attends the class that starts at 7:30 a.m. despite a lecture capture being offered.
“Since I’ve grown up with class sizes of maybe 30 kids, going to over 150 is kind of a shock,” Czubkowski said. “But it’s not too bad because teachers are very open and willing to talk to you and answer all of your questions.”
Despite some of the positive feedback regarding large class sizes, other students disagree.
Nikki Young, a junior majoring in English language arts education, said she preferred her smaller classes to her larger ones as an underclassman.
“It’s less for me about getting personal attention, but that there’s more discussion,” Young said.
Being an education major, she said most of her classes have a maximum capacity of around 30, so the students are able to discuss literature and lesson plans as a group. Young feels this is where her education thrives.
Junior health science major Allen Uson also prefers smaller classes, but for a different reason.
“I honestly prefer the smaller ones because I feel like it’s easier to talk to people and be like ‘Oh, you’re the guy that sits in front of me,’” Uson said. “Then later when I’m studying for the exam I will know someone to ask for help.”
Making connections with not only other students but also with the professor is why Uson and some students prefer smaller class sizes in a college with 55,773 undergraduates.
“We are not a small liberal arts college,” Sandoval said. “We are a large, accessible public institution. There should be some limit as we continue to grow every year.”