Some classes never get old.
While many students spend hours thinking through their individualized schedules every semester during advanced registration, certain classes have been identified within particular schools and departments as more sought after than others.
Director for Education Rob Nelson noted that each school has particular courses that have a large total enrollment no matter what year, such as introductory Biology, Chemistry, Economics, Psychology 001 and Math 114.
“Those gateway classes are pretty much the top ones,” Nelson said.
He noted that in spring 2013, Psychology 001 was the top enrolled class with 433 students, followed by Chemistry 054 — a lab course, Biology 102 and Operations and Information Management 101.
Former Student Committee on Undergraduate Education Chair and Wharton senior Scott Dzialo noted that other trends emerged, in addition to the popularity of these large lecture classes.
He discussed three trends: classes students viewed as being easy and fulfilling sectors, classes that explored topics that students found interesting and exciting, and classes that fulfill requirements or that will be helpful in the future.
He noted that while choosing classes usually falls into one of the three aforementioned categories, there are also other trends.
“You see a cycle of classes that end up getting a reputation for being difficult … [and then] the professor eases up on the [difficulty] and makes it easy again,” Dzialo said. “It’s a vicious cycle.”
Dzialo mentioned a few professors who appear “popular” based on student feedback, including history professor Thomas Childers, religious studies professor Justin McDaniels, history professor Alan Kors, political science professor John Diiulio, physics professor Masao Sako, and urban studies professor Ira Harkavy.
“It’s not the subject material but rather the professor — someone who sparks a genuine interest in people that doesn’t exist normally,” Dzialo said.
He added that any classes taught by these professors could become popular.
“In these courses, you tend to see huge trends in taking them,” Dzialo said. “There are great conversations [about them] year after year because people come in knowing that the professor cares and so they care too.”
Wharton junior Alex Rattray, who designed the program CourseGrapher — a program that graphs courses based on difficulty, instructor quality and class quality — with Engineering sophomore Greg Terrono, explained the trends he’s seen since the program has been up and running.
“The departments have a negative correlation between instructor quality and difficulty,” Rattray said. “However, within most departments, that correlation doesn’t seem to be very strong — the advanced and more challenging classes, people tend to really like.”
Rattray has noticed that classes with the highest rating and best instructor quality are some of the hardest classes offered. Additionally, language courses, along with other small group classes that are more “intimate,” tend do better in terms of ratings.
“Smaller classes have a much higher instructor quality rating — this is something I’ve noticed in general,” he said.
Overall, however, measuring class trends is extremely difficult and hard to gauge based on a specific criteria, according to College sophomore Aaron Wilson, who currently runs Penn Course Review alongside College junior Spencer Braun.
Wilson added that Penn Course Review only shows classes that have a high response rate, which is not always accurate in terms of the quality of the class.
“It’s not a good metric to go off of — it doesn’t really tell you how popular the class was. It just tells you how many people submitted comments for that class.”
“It’s hard to tell when a class is popular because the responses we’re getting are not a complete representation of the class,” he added.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.