By Martin J. Kidston
In an attempt to better serve the working population at its extended campus in Great Falls, Montana State University-Northern is moving a sample of classes to the weekend on a trial basis.
Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Director of the Great Falls branch of MSU-Northern Richard Fisher said classes for the Computer Systems Information program will be moved to Friday and Saturday on a trial basis while the school watches to see if the switch meets the needs of schedule flexibility.
Northerns role in Great Falls has traditionally been designed to serve working adults, so we have typically offered our programs Monday through Thursday with evening classes, Fisher said. However, the plan weve been discussing is how we can better meet the needs of the working adult, and we have learned they would like weekend classes, as long as they are not scheduled for every weekend.
Fisher said that many teachers and families who want to attend school have conflicting schedules, making it difficult for them to make classes during the week. But with a weekend format, Fisher hopes to alleviate the conflict by offering better flexibility and more scheduling options.
The school will watch and see if the switch meets the needs of working adults. In the process, Fisher said Northern will also look at other needs in Great Falls, such as the possibility of adding more programs.
Right now, Leslie College in Massachusetts offers a master of education degree in Great Falls, Fisher said. With all the teachers enrolled in that program, it tells us a lot, and we think were on the right track with the program.
Based on the success of the masters in education degree, Fisher said Northern will look into implementing new programs of its own in Great Falls.
We will look at graduate training programs and degree programs, some engineering and technical programs, and we may look at some additional education programs, Fisher said. Right now, its quite open. When we do this, we will be sure it meets the needs of Great Falls.
MSU-Northerns Chancellor Mike Rao implemented the idea of expanding access to the colleges various course offerings and programs as part of the schools long-range goals. And as the school becomes more successful at doing so, it better serves its outreach communities.
The discussions weve had with other MSU units indicate this is a positive direction for Northern, and they are supportive of further examination, Fisher said. And I would like to see the academic area of the university make some conclusions by October.
Fisher said that if Northern needs to go to the Board of Regents for approval to expand its course offerings in Great Falls, it needs to have a conclusion by October, so that when the regents make their first reading in November, they can begin an in-depth discussion by January.
If they agree with our proposals, we would look to implement our goals in Great Falls by the summer or fall of 2000, Fisher said.