First Year Seminar Q&A

Austin Community College is considering implementing a mandatory first year seminar for first-time-in-college (FTIC) students beginning spring 2015. The first year seminar (FYSE) planning committee (see a list of members below) has provided answers to questions about the proposed requirement.

Do other Texas metro community colleges (our peer institutions) require a first year seminar — how many contact hours and what is the cost at these institutions?

Information regarding practices at some of our peer institutions is included in the FYSE proposal to the Academic and Campus Affairs Committee. The first year seminar planning committee can provide additional background information.

Many peer colleges rely on courses like PSYC/EDUC 1300 (or 1200, or 1100); others have noncredit courses. Some require the course for all FTIC students; some require it for FTIC students who are not TSI complete. Some require it for students on academic probation.

Who is the “director of FYSE” mentioned in the ACAC proposal?

The director is not yet hired. The FYSE committee has a draft of the FYSE director job description.

Who will hire/train faculty for the first year seminar?

The FYSE director and interview committee will hire the faculty. The FYSE director, in partnership with Instructional Development Services, the assistant dean of faculty development, and faculty will develop and/or provide the training.

How is “completion” (of the seminar) determined?

Completion will be based on completion of seminar activities and attendance. Seminar activities and curriculum are still in development.

How is completion (of the seminar) recorded on transcripts – as a letter grade? Pass/fail? Will it impact GPA?

Seminar completion will be recorded on the student’s transcript. It will not be recorded as a grade. The FYSE planning committee will work with Linda Kluck, director of admissions, to determine the best way to record completion on the transcript. It will not be recorded with a “Pass/Fail” indicator. It will not be calculated in the student’s GPA.

Recommended pay = $40 per hour or $600 per course — so faculty are not being paid for any preparation time?

The recommended instructor pay is $600 per course, including prep time. It is not an hourly rate.

We want a consistent experience for FTIC students, so we can assess the effectiveness of this strategy. Therefore, there will be a course shell in Blackboard for every section with the same links and information resources. Activities are being created from which seminar faculty can select. Given the array of teaching experience of potential instructors, curriculum and learning outcomes are being developed with faculty, staff, and student input.

How much will the course cost ACC (per student)?

Other than the initial startup costs, the budget is expected to be revenue neutral. The initial start-up budget will be funded through the SSI budget.

How much will the students pay?

The proposed budget includes a $60 fee to the student. Options for offsetting the cost to students can be explored.

Will there be scholarships available?

Options for offsetting the cost to students can be explored. Employee groups are encouraged to consider developing a service project that includes establishing scholarships for FYSE students.

Will the tuition be refundable for students who drop?

We will follow college refund policy.

Will students be able to register (and drop) online?

The seminar will be listed in the course schedule just like all other classes. Students will register through normal channels and withdraw through normal channels.

How much time will students have to complete the seminar before they are barred from registering?

The goal of the seminar is to help students be successful, not bar them from college.

A hold will be applied to require the student to see a counselor if the student has not completed the seminar in their first semester.

How long (contact hours) are the similar courses at other colleges?

Generally, they are credit courses and range from 1 to 3 credits, or 15-45 contact hours. The decision was made to offer the seminar as an institutional requirement due to the new 60-hour cap on degree plans. The proposal to ACAC includes information about similar courses at other community colleges in Texas.

How will sections be scheduled? Two days per week? Three days per week? Weekends? Nights? How will we know the best times to schedule?

We have some information about where our FTIC students are concentrated. We will tap into available information resources to address the question of scheduling, but we envision offering the first year seminar in a variety of rhythms and time signatures.

Will students be able to take the course online?

Not initially, but this will be developed.

Will any FTIC students be granted an exemption from the seminar? If so, for what reason(s)?

We consider this to be a best practice that will help all FTIC students succeed. Exemptions will be granted on a case-by-case basis.

Questions concerning the Learning Objectives:

Learning Strategies: Will basic “information literacy” be covered?

This will be introduced.

College Resources: Faculty as a resource is not specifically mentioned. Are faculty being discussed as a resource for students?

Absolutely, faculty are a crucial resource for students.

Which college policies will be covered? Are the harassment/bullying policies included in the discussion? Academic integrity? Academic freedom?

College policies relating to student rights and responsibilities are included in the discussion.

Goal setting: The learning outcomes mention aligning academic goals with career goals. But will students be given instruction on aligning academic goals with academic readiness?  That is, will students consider academic expectations, based on their assessed readiness? Will “college readiness” be discussed?


Social/professional skills: Working with faculty is not listed as a specific learning outcome. Are students being given instruction on how/when to work with faculty?


Are students being given instruction on working within a diverse environment (with regard to age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, etc.)?

Yes. Included in the learning outcomes is “work in collaboration with others.”  This includes interacting with a diverse population and applying principles of cultural competence.

First Year Seminar Planning Committee

Kathleen Christensen, vice president of student services

Melissa Biegert, director of early college high schools

Andrew Christie, director, Applications Development

Laura Lucas, specialist, Instructional Technology

Dianne Olla, supervisor, Instructional Support Services

Soon Merz, vice president of effectiveness & accountability

Mike Midgley, vice president of instruction

Ursula Pike, grant writer

Tobin Quereau, professor of human development

Marvi Reyes, associate director of communications

Cheryl Richard, director of student life

Gaye Lynn Scott, dean of social & behavioral sciences

Gale Spear, professor of child care development

Susan Warner-Thomason, director of instructional development services

Seth Wilkerson, senior systems administrator, Instructional Technology

First Year Seminar Curriculum Writing Team

Ashley Carr, librarian/assistant professor of library services

Charlotte Gullick, chair/assistant professor of creative writing

Laura Lucas, specialist, Instructional Design

Tobin Quereau, professor of human development

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