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Civil and Environmental Engineering

Carnegie Mellon University

5000 Forbes Avenue
Porter Hall 119
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213-3890
Phone: (412) 268-2940
Fax: (412) 268-7813

TO: Professor David Dzombak, Department Head
FROM: Erin Persson, CEE 16
DATE: 2 September 2014
RE: Unit Allocation for Labs and Mini Courses

The units allocated in SIO for classes such as labs and mini courses need to be adjusted to
reflect the amount of work that students do during the weeks that they have class or assignment.
It is understood in labs that there is an assignment every other week on average, so the unit count
for the course is adjusted to reflect that there is not work assigned every week. This process
assumes that there are on weeks, where assignments and exams take place, and off weeks,
where there is no assignment or exam. This is similar to mini courses, which only occupy half
the semester; for instance, a 12-unit course would count as 6 units on transcripts and SIO
because there is no class for half the semester. This unit allocation process is unfair to students
because it assumes that during off weeks or periods they are not doing work in addition to not
giving them enough credit for the work that is done during the on periods. A student may put
in 6 hours of work during a week that a lab is due, but the next week will have to attend lecture
for that class and prepare for the next lab in that class; there is never a week that is truly off.
The way units are currently allocated allows the unit total of the student per semester to
be decreased and therefore take more classes without the possibility of overloading. Although
adjusting the units to better reflect the workload would make the possibility of overloading more
prominent, it would be more reflective of a busy semester and keep students feeling fulfilled and
confident that they are getting the credit that is due for the work they are completing. While it
could possibly create scheduling issues with overloading, there is always the option of increasing
the maximum unit amount for students in order to accommodate the changes that would be
These changes would not only give the students a better idea of what kind of workload to
expect, but would also ensure that they are receiving an adequate amount of credit for the work
they are putting in to these classes.