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April 2011

Quarters to Semesters Update 

April 2011

Dear Colleagues,

In last month’s QSU we asked if you had questions about broad semester-based issues and, if so, to contact us. We received a number of queries and would like to start this edition of the newsletter by addressing an issue that seems to be on the minds of many of you: how semesters will affect classroom utilization.

Will Ohio State have enough large lecture halls, once we are on semesters? That was one of the first questions asked about the move to semesters, and it was the first issue tackled by the Semester Conversion Space Committee. The committee started by considering the current number of large lecture halls (those with more than 100 seats) and, through consultation with other schools having already converted to semesters, our own colleges and departments, and the Office of Academic Affairs, was able to forecast Ohio State’s need for such classrooms under semesters. What the committee found was that, while enough large classroom spaces exist to accommodate the need, not all of these classrooms were part of the classroom pool. This means that they may not have historically been available to all departments and, so, may not have been used as efficiently as possible.

The Space Committee has already begun conversations with a number of colleges and departments to create better partnerships for as many as eight lecture halls to make them more available to the classroom pool.

Moreover, through renovations to existing space, the equivalent of one additional 250-seat lecture hall has been created, and the capacity of another classroom has been increased by 50 seats. Ground will be broken in the coming months for a new 120-seat lecture hall.

Just as significant as these permanent changes to Ohio State’s large lecture halls profile is our successful partnership with the Gateway Theater to add four more lecture halls by using theater spaces to teach courses. This partnership started as a pilot but received such positive reviews from faculty and students that the partnership has been formalized through the first few years of semesters to provide even more lecture hall flexibility.

How will semesters affect Commencement? Another frequently asked question concerns Commencement. When Ohio State converts to the semester calendar, the plan is for there to be three Commencement ceremonies each year: at the end of Autumn Semester, at the end of Spring Semester, and at the end of Summer Term. Note, however, that May Session and Summer Session are both part of the Summer Term, so there will not be a separate Commencement at the end of May Session. As is the current practice under the quarter calendar, Commencements will be held on the Sunday following the end of the final exam period. This means that Autumn Commencement will take place usually in the third week of December (in 2012, Autumn Commencement is on Sunday, December 16); Spring commencement will take place usually at the end of the first week of May (in 2013, Spring Commencement is on Sunday, May 5); and Summer Commencement will take place usually at the beginning of August (in 2013, Summer Commencement is on Sunday, August 4).

You can view the complete academic calendar for the years 2012 to 2017, including Commencement dates, at

Other Frequently Asked Questions. Since we launched QSU in November 2009, we have received many other questions about the semester conversion. It is scarcely surprising that we regularly field queries concerning faculty workload. Because workload decisions are being made by individual units, we cannot provide a standard response. If you are uncertain about your responsibilities once we move to the semester calendar, you should discuss this with your department chair or school director.

Here is a sampling of other semester-related questions.

  • How will the semester calendar be structured?

Though we discussed the semester calendar in the March QSU, we can scarcely feature it too often. In that issue, you will find explanations of the terminology being used to describe the periods of the semester-based academic year. As noted above, details of the academic calendars from the inception of semesters in summer 2012 through summer 2017 are available at the University Registrar’s website.

  • How do I know what courses to take before and after the calendar conversion?

All academic programs—undergraduate as well as graduate and professional programs—currently are being reviewed by the Council on Academic Affairs. All should be approved by July 1, 2011. Some information about the transition may already be available in some colleges and departments. Advisors, however, are still the best resource, and by autumn 2011, they should have specifics to share with students.

  • Can I participate in spring Commencement if I still need credits that I will take during the May session?

The May session is attached to the Summer Term. Students who complete their coursework at the end of the May session will be eligible to graduate at the end of the Summer Term.

UCAT workshop on Teaching to the Rhythm of Semesters. The University Center for the Advancement of Teaching (UCAT) will host a workshop designed to help instructors learn more about the effects that the new semester calendar and its different rhythms could have on their teaching. As just one example, spring break will fall in the tenth week of spring semester, 2012, with five weeks of coursework to be completed after the break.

The workshop will provide an environment of collegial support for devising responses to the opportunities and challenges of the semester rhythms. It will take place on Wednesday, May 11, from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. in Room 150 Younkin Success Center, 1640 Neil Avenue. For information about all of UCAT’s semester-based programs, please visit

We hope this issue’s focus on questions frequently asked about the semester conversion is helpful. Please continue to let us hear from you by emailing Assistant Provost Jay Johnson. Your communications show us what the university community most wants and needs to know about the transition to semesters. We hope your spring quarter—Ohio State’s next-to-last—is off to a fine start.


 W. Randy Smith
Vice Provost for Academic Programs and Co-Chair,
Semester Conversion Coordinating Committee

 Steven S. Fink
Associate Professor of English and Co-Chair,
Semester Conversion Coordinating Committee

Questions or comments about the transition to the semester calendar?
Contact Assistant Provost Jay Johnson,