In addition to the proposal from the Academic Integrity Committee, Harris proposed switching to a credit system from the current course system, with each half-course equalling four credits.
“I realize that for some of you this might be coming out of left field,” he said. “[We] have tried to structure this in such a way so that it will not change anything for those who do not want to change anything.”
Harris pointed to a new system for organizing student records that will be implemented in the fall of 2015 as a pragmatic reason for the switch. “That system comes ready-made equipped to deal with course credits rather than half-courses," he said.
Beyond the administrative reasons, Harris cited the need to "adjust to the reality of a changing academic world” as primary reason for the shift.
Specifically, he said, the new credit schema would allow for the future possibility of the introduction of a new type of shorter course, lasting for only part of a semester. He said that a numerical course credit system would make these shorter courses—which are still a “theoretical possibility at this point”—easier to track administratively.
Addressing a question from one faculty member, Harris said that faculty members would have the same teaching requirements under the new policy.
Noting the importance of the in-person class experience, Harris also asked faculty members on behalf of the Standing Committee on Undergraduate Education Policy to consider revising a current policy that allows for simultaneous enrollment in courses that meet at overlapping times.
This semester, Harris said, the Administrative Board received and granted 200 petitions from undergraduates requesting permission for simultaneous enrollment, more than four times as many as the 44 who were granted permission six years ago.
Harris, along with members of the Ad Board who unanimously supported the presentation’s recommendations, argued that this signaled a departure from the College’s principles.
“Students are doing entire courses without ever stepping foot in a classroom,” Harris said. "What we are struggling to articulate is that this is not what a residential college should be offering and this is not what a Harvard education should be.”
—Staff writer Dev A. Patel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dev_a_patel.
—Staff writer Steven R. Watros can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveWatros.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: April 2, 2014
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Computer Science professor Harry R. Lewis's middle initial.