Most lab classes are more work than just the one credit they are worth

For the 6,359 students at Grand Valley State University enrolled in science courses that require labs this winter 2012 semester, receiving zero to one credit for the time they spend working both in class and outside of class has become an unfortunate side-effect of their majors.

In this issue of the Lanthorn, staff writer Liz Garlick asked professors and administrators to justify the gap. Their bottom line answers? Most of the work assigned for labs is done during the lab hours — 80 to 100 percent, said Mary Schutten, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Among other reasons cited were whether the lab is connected to a course, the size of the lab and how the lab is scheduled.

Conversely, all administrative justification aside, the bottom line for many of the students enrolled in those classes is the disparity of credits rewarded in relation to the work they’re expected to accomplish.

Nick Dow, an exercise science major at GVSU, said while he was enrolled in BMS 291 — a human physiology class with a lab requirement — he put in five to seven hours a week for outside lab work alone.

BMS 291 is a one-credit class with the workload similar to a three-credit class,” he said. “There are other labs that I have taken that should be worth no credit because everything is completed in class, but there are a few classes that have large amount of outside work on top of the three hours of class a week.”

He said the amount of time he spent on work for a class that only counted for one credit was “almost not worth it.”

And though GVSU professors do not dispute the fact that class and lab work can add up, with biology department chair Neil MacDonald saying lecture and lab combined “would be from eight to 12 hours per week in addition to the time actually spent in class,” that kind of pressure seems unrealistic and unfair to apply to students who are already carrying pretty overwhelming workloads.

And though college students are often expected to buck up and deal with unfairness, offering credits proportional to hours is not only fair, but it makes more logical sense for students standing on the fence of classes they’re so close to deeming “not worth it.”