Computer science students struggle with scheduling

Allison Mueller

Nathaniel Nelson / Winonan

The computer science (CS) department at Winona State University has been suffering scheduling and advising problems for the past few years.

Elliot Peck, a fifth-year senior in the department, has had his share of problems.

“Classes not being offered when they should be, or not enough electives being offered, are the biggest problems,” Peck said.

Peck said that while most of the professors and classes are great, some of the classes offered end up being completely pointless in the long run.

In one class, Peck said the main curriculum was learned through an at home chapter reading and short assignments. At times, the professor seemed as uninterested in the class as the students.

Eventually, the situation escalated and another professor had to come in and take over.

“It felt like a joke,” Peck said.

Peck is taking the human computer interaction (HCI) route for computer science, and as such, he has to take a different course load than some of the other CS students.

Last year, a professor went on leave and left no one behind to teach an HCI required course.

So, Peck spent a year worrying about whether or not he would be able to graduate on time.

“Not knowing whether I’d be able to get to get into that class, whether it’d be offered the next semester….I couldn’t plan around it,” Peck said. “Not being able to plan around was a huge inconvenience and anxiety inducing.”

Jeffrey William, a Winona State alumnus, ended up having to stay for six years due to inadequate advising.

William said his advisor, while a great professor and researcher, left him out to dry when it came to general education credits. He found himself taking a majority of his general education courses his final year and was way behind for most of his college career.

“As a freshman coming out of high school, it’s a pretty overwhelming experience having to manage scheduling without proper advice,” William said.

His advisor also had him to  take CS electives he did not need.

“I was told to sign up for some classes that didn’t apply to my major,” William said. “When I ended up switching from bioinformatics CS to straight CS, a bunch of credits didn’t transfer.”

William said although he had some problems, if students do seek out help from professors with tenacity they would not fall victim to the same situation.

Gerald Cichanowski, CS professor at Winona State, has been working to keep students on the path to graduation.

“We offer courses on a frequent enough basis to allow students to follow the path we set,” Cichanowski said.

Cichanowski said the CS curriculum is laid out so students will always have classes to take which follow the route they are supposed to go.

The problem comes when students take courses later or earlier than they were supposed to, Cichanowski said.

“Are we offering as many classes as we’d like to? No,” Cichanowski said.

Last fall, the department had a large problem with waitlists. Some of the waitlists for courses were filled with 15 or 20 people.

According to Cichanowski, a few of the professors spent the better part of a week going through every waitlist to make sure students were getting into courses they needed.

“Every student got what they needed, not necessarily what they wanted,” Cichanowski said.

Part of this is due to there not being enough professors in the department.

According to Cichanowski, the university has been searching for another CS professor for a while, but its last faculty search failed.

Cichanowski said that there will be another faculty search in March.

He is hopeful that this search will be more fruitful than the previous attempts to add more depth to the department.