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College students in Penticton protest class size

Students and administrators at Okanagan College are meeting this week over how to handle a classroom boasting an enrolment of 28 students some purport should be lower.

Suzanne Hall, a second year student who aims to undergo social work studies at UBCO, said her peers enrolled in sociology 271 — a statistics course designed for social work students — have been struggling as a result of the cramped conditions of the class.

She says that students have heard indications from the professor the course content is designed for 15 to 20 students maximum. Thirty-one students were originally enrolled, and the roll has been reduced to 28.

“Originally it was set up to be 15 and have two sections of the class,” she said. “It’s a math class geared to students who aren’t coming in with a math background, yet the cap on this class is higher than math classes geared to students with math backgrounds.

“This is an essential course for the criminal and social justice program. We’ve had to drop many components of it because of the way they’ve set this up.”

Hall said that components of the course have been dropped to accommodate the extra students, and that students who will transfer to other institutions may be left without exposure to the full curriculum — a situation, she feels, “deliberately handicaps students.”

“There are so many students who are completely anxiety ridden with what’s going on with this class, and pulling down GPAs and they’re starting to think ahead to what’s going to happen,” she said. “Their mandate is to serve the students and they’re not doing that. The way it’s set up right now is absolutely not for student success.”

Allan Coyle, Okanagan College’s public affairs director, said administrators met with students last week on the issue, presented some solutions and continue to meet with students this week.

“We’re always concerned about educational quality for our students and ensuring that transpires,” he said.

Coyle said the college follows course articulation agreements with the province that pinpoint what the learning outcomes are and prerequisites heading in. He said Okanagan College has offered sociology 271 for several years always with a cap of 30 students. The course offered in Kelowna currently has 19 students, also with the 30-student cap.

“Okanagan College has to focus on keeping class sizes relatively small, but if you look at other institutions in the province, similar classes offer between 75 and 230 students,” he said.

After meeting with students, Coyle explained, administrators decided to increase hours at the Student Success Centre to offer more tutoring and assistance.

“They said the students have more chance to go in and access some professional help if they want it,” he said, adding a change of classroom was also put in motion. “They’re moving from a computer lab that had 34 seats to another classroom that has 40 seats.”

Those who remain unhappy with their grades are also able to follow the college’s appeals process.

“It’s not a course that we decide on a whim in terms of what’s offered and how it’s offered. As far as the class size goes, it’s reasonable when you contemplate what some of the alternatives are around the province,” Coyle said.

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