When Yuba College students return to class this fall, they’ll find a change in one required course. English 1A is changing from a three-unit course to a four-unit course.
There are multiple reasons for this decision, as Composition Coordinator Dr. Sally Harvey explains.
“Our department has noticed that, in this age, it’s difficult to teach students all the technical aspects of research that have been created by the availability of the internet,” said Harvey. “Also, we’ve noticed that many students who initially place in English 1A enter that class with certain weaknesses in reading and writing that, in the past, may have been addressed at the high school level.”
“This may be due to an increased load on high school instructors who are teaching more students with basic English problems,” continued Harvey. “The additional class time will help students to succeed in the course.”
Jay Drury, Dean of Language and Fine Arts, talks about the concerns of student preparedness and long-term implications of this on a student’s future.
“My understanding is that this was evolved from needing more time to work on English 1A,” said Drury, “simply to give more instruction and hopefully improve everyone’s writing skills.”
“We are always concerned with the level of preparation students come to Yuba College with,” continued Drury, “and whether they have to try and catch up on their reading, writing and math skills. It’s a big issue for many people, I’m not blaming anybody; it’s just a fact. If you ever want to advance beyond an entry level job in the workplace, reading and writing are very important.”
With English 1A making the shift from three to four units, Yuba College is joining other California colleges and universities that already offer a four-unit or higher Freshman Composition course. According to the Fall 2002 edition of “Inside English,” a statewide journal produced by the English Council of California Two-Year Colleges, 29 of the 108 California Community Colleges already offer four-unit Freshman Composition courses. One community college, Ventura, offers a five-unit Freshman Composition course. Out of the remaining 78 community colleges, 29 of them require four class hours per week for their three-unit freshman composition courses.
To compare community colleges with California’s 23 State Universities, 10 CSUs offer a four-unit or higher Freshman Composition course, with 13 CSUs offering a three-unit Freshman Composition course. In the UC system, there are no three-unit Freshman Composition courses; all are four units or higher.
The change of English 1A to four units may have both positive and negative effects for Yuba College students.
“Students will receive more instruction time, as well as more access to the instructor,” said Harvey. “We were able to schedule one hour per week in a classroom with computers available. We can guide students in evaluating and using internet sources for use in their essays, giving students more hands-on experience with an instructor available.”
“A downside,” continued Harvey, “is that this will be a new mind-frame, requiring adjustment for many at this school. It’s different than the three-hour-per-week schedule that students are used to; students will have to make time to schedule the extra hour. We know units are expensive, and we appreciate the fact that this is an extra cost. We hope that with this increase, students will know that this is a worthwhile tradeoff for them.”
This tradeoff could benefit students in their job futures, according to Drury.
“The biggest problem for people trying to get ahead that I’m aware of is that they can’t write well,” said Drury. “In a lot of business positions, they (employers) want people who write well and don’t make a lot of errors. Where young people hit the wall is that if they can’t write well, they’ll be stuck at entry level.”
“I know it sounds remote to a 19-year-old,” continued Drury, “but college is where it’s important to do well to learn the skills needed for life. Writing is a critical job skill. A lot of people think direct knowledge is all you need to know in a job. They don’t realize businesses don’t promote people who don’t write well.”
This change will have little impact on Yuba College’s part-time, or adjunct, faculty. Adjunct professors, according to their contract with the Yuba Community College District, may teach 16 units per academic year, 18 units with special permission from the personnel office.
“Every part-time instructor that I’ve spoken with has expressed a belief that this extra unit of instruction will be a positive change for students, allowing faculty to provide needed instruction in areas they may have had to cover too quickly before,” said Harvey.
“We would like to help our students,” continued Harvey. “Students put a lot of time into analysis, research, reading and writing into English 1A now. If they succeed in the four-unit course, they’ll get that extra unit that they are doing so much work for. English 1A is a very time-heavy class. If they see that it’s a four-unit course, perhaps they’ll realize that they’ll have a lot of outside work to be responsible for.”