Faculty object to new online caps


Jake Brannon

The number of students the college allows in each online class has increased to 25.

Christian Richey, Editor-in-Chief

AACC increased online class sizes to a maximum of 25 this spring, up from 20 in prior semesters.

Vice President for Learning Mike Gavin said the change allows more students to take classes rather than sign up for waitlists.

But some faculty objected to the higher class sizes, saying professors will not be able to spend as much time with each student.

“If a class was capped at 20 there’s a reason for that,” English and gender studies professor Suzanne Spoor said. In writing classes, for example, “the professor would need a lot more one-on-one time with a student,” she said.

Spoor said the change could affect student success.

“If you add five students to a class that was capped at 20, you’re adding 25% more students, which means those students are not going to get the same kind of one-on-one attention that they would need,” Spoor said.

But Gavin said the college had multiple course sections with students on waitlists who might not have been able to take those classes without the change.

Increasing class sizes “ensure[s] that students would be able to take classes,” he said.

According to Gavin, lower enrollment also led the college to increase online class sizes.

Gavin said increasing the online caps allowed more students to enroll in previously full classes. In the past, he said, AACC sometimes would add another section of the course with half the students.

Opening fewer additional sections this semester has saved the college $135,000, he said.

Gavin said enrollment went from a 10% decrease going into the semester before the change to a 5% decrease after.

He said approximately 75% of online courses already enrolled 24 or 25 students last semester.

English professor Candice Hill said the increase could help some students, but a cap of 25 may be too high.

“I think in some classes, the class cap did need to be raised so that students have more access to seats in the class,” she said. “But I’m not sure that for all classes, the cap should be as high as it is.”

Communications professors have requested that their online classes, which require a high level of teacher-student interaction, be capped at 20 students rather than 25.

Gavin said some English and health sciences classes are exempt from the higher cap because the change would negatively affect student success.

Third-year electrical engineering student Matthew Barzal said the change probably won’t affect his success.

“I don’t see how it could be negative, really,” Barzal said. “Maybe if it was like 50 people per class, it would be.”

Second-year engineering student Kevin Butler disagreed.

“I don’t really feel too good about [the cap increase] because AACC has that small class size, which … provides a better learning environment,” he said.