Salt Lake Community College course prerequisites that were once only recommendations to help students prepare for upper level classes are now taking on the literal definition of a “prerequisite.”
In the past, there were two kinds of course prerequisites. Some were designed to be strictly required, while others were simply recommendations. Until recently, nearly all prerequisites were treated as recommendations, and there was nothing in the registration process that would lock out unqualified students. Now, this has all changed.
“About a year ago, the decision was made, that for those [prerequisites] that really should have been required all along, but hadn’t been, it was in everybody’s best interest to go ahead and start enforcing them,” said senior director of curriculum scheduling and regional management Nate Southerland.
Southerland’s department is responsible for publishing the prerequisites in the college catalog and programming them into the registration system after they have been approved.
Success for the next class
This new emphasis on enforcement is based around the idea that proper prerequisites lead to an increased chance for student success in higher level courses.
“It’s all about your ability to succeed in the next class. We don’t want to set students up for failure,” Southerland said. “It’s a waste of their time and their money. It’s also a waste of college resources for someone to take a class they are not prepared to take.”
This new check performed by the registration system doesn’t necessarily ban students from bypassing a prerequisite. Instructors have the ability to perform a manual exception if they feel that a student is adequately prepared.
Even so, Southerland expressed a concern that there are some students who are frustrated because they want to move forward, but the new rules are forcing them to go back and take a class they feel like they didn’t need or want.
“When a student is trying to move along quickly and is blocked by a class the student needs to go back and take, I can understand the frustration there,” Southerland said. “I don’t think it’s meant to punish and I don’t think it’s meant to delay students.”
SLCC student Moniek Breen has mixed feelings on prerequisite enforcement.
“Some, I can agree are very useful, such as chemistry,” Breen said. “But there have been prerequisites I had to take that I questioned why I needed the class before moving on.”
Computer science major Sam Funston feels that prerequisites have helped prepare him for upper level classes.
“I definitely agree that prerequisites prepare students for success in later classes,” Funston said. “If you don’t learn the basic principles, then how do expect to succeed and understand more advanced concepts.”
Southerland said SLCC faculty is constantly reexamining prerequisite requirements. In several cases, prerequisites have been deemed unnecessary, and subsequently dropped.
“I think we are trying our hardest to improve the process and welcome feedback from the students as well,” Southerland said.