Student speaks out after ARTH 292 offers no course material for final six weeks of classes

"The course was not as good as it would have been in person and honestly not worth my money." 

Course structure adapted to a remote learning environment, stopping lectures after week six.
Journal File Photo

When Queen’s announced courses for the fall term would be held online, the University assured students that learning standards would be up to par with the in-person experience. Instead, one course offered by the art history department stopped offering course material halfway through the semester.

ARTH 292 (Architecture from 1900 to the Present), taught by Dr. Katherine Romba, stopped offering students course material after week six. 

At the beginning of week seven, Alison Cartan, ArtSci’21, learned there would be no more lectures after week six. 

Cartan told The Journal the course structure had progressed by having students watch the weekly lecture posted to the course OnQ site, complete a weekly reading, and write a 500-word essay based on that week’s material. 

“[The course structure] was posted in the syllabus,” Cartan said. “There was a breakdown of the six weekly essays, so I knew that those were some of the assignments, but it wasn’t clearly set out in the syllabus that [the material covered for the essays] was actually going to be the course content. I thought that was just our assignment breakdown.”

After completing the final short essay at the beginning of week seven, Cartan emailed the professor of the course when no further course material had been posted for students. 

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Cartan learned from the professor’s response that the course material posted up until week six was the entire course content, and the remainder of the semester would be available for students to complete the final paper assignment, which is worth 30 per cent of the overall grade for the course.

“I was so confused,” Cartan said. “I rightfully so expected there would be more content posted, even if my assignments so far had been completed.”

“I asked [the professor] if we fit 12 weeks of learning into the first six weeks of class, but it really didn’t feel that way to me,” Cartan said. “If I had finished that first six weeks of class and felt the course was really intense and felt that I covered twelve weeks of material, I wouldn’t have been as bothered, but it felt like I had just done six weeks of class and it ended.”

She also said it felt odd to her that there would be five weeks available for students to complete the final assignment for the course, when the final project was worth 30 per cent of the mark.

“A 30 per cent final project is a very normal and manageable project in my other courses on top of all my other lectures,” Cartan said. “Me doing 30 per cent of an assignment does not qualify the professor teaching 30 per cent of the course.”

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Cartan later made a post in the Facebook group Overheard at Queen’s expressing her frustrations for the course.

“It was not the quality of course that I was expecting to take, and not the quality of course I think Queen’s advertises to people, especially when Queen’s sent out a lot of emails assuring students [they] would get the same level of education online as they would in person,” Cartan said. “I really felt that the course was not as good as it would have been in person and honestly not worth my money.”

According to Dr. Norman Vorano, head of the art history department and graduate program chair, the course was designed to better accommodate the stress that typically occurs at the end of term when students are completing final assignments. 

“I applaud the instructor’s effort to create exciting and engaging content while anticipating the challenges of remote learning during this unprecedented time,” Vorano wrote in an email to The Journal.

“Our faculty worked with remote learning specialists during the summer in order to make the transition to remote teaching and learning. Moreover, we had many discussions, internally as a department and externally with our remote learning specialists, to ensure that our courses meet the high standard that we expect and deserve.”

Vorano also wrote that the professor of ARTH 292 is a “highly capable and respected professor who, like every other professor, redesigned her course to take into account the many anticipated challenges and variables that students would be facing in this unprecedented time.”

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