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IAP '95 Could Include Required Classes

By Lawrence K. Chang
Staff Reporter

When the faculty approved the new calendar in May, it also approved a measure allowing departments to offer one requirement exclusively during Independent Activities Period, starting in 1995. But efforts to develop such course requirements are progressing slowly.

"An informal survey suggests that there will be less than half-a-dozen such courses ready for IAP '95," said Stephen A. Benton '63, chair of the IAP Policy Committee. He was unable to disclose which course requirements would be offered exclusively during IAP beginning in 1995, but said that they would appear in the next course bulletin.

"The number will probably rise slowly after that, as people gain experience with the concept," Benton added.

The new calendar, which will take effect in the 1994-95 academic year, extends IAP by two days, making it a full four weeks minus one day for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Currently, IAP is 17 days long.

The academic content of IAP would be increased significantly because students could be required by their department to spend one of four IAP's on an academic requirement.

"The impact of this new opportunity may not be as large as we hoped, because it is very, very difficult, even with the longer IAP, to fit a full 12-unit course into IAP in a format that is appropriate -- and we intend to take `appropriateness' very seriously," Benton said.

"[An IAP course] could not be a compressed version of an ordinary lecture course," he said.

The intended benefits of offering certain requirements only during IAP are to increase flexibility and to reduce the pressure on the students throughout the rest of the academic year.

The opponents of this measure had argued that the requirement would actually intensify the MIT pace by eliminating one of the optional academic breaks of IAP.

The IAP Policy Committee, the Committee on the Curriculum, and the Committee on the Undergraduate Program Committee, who have been working on the IAP course requirements, have come across other curricular difficulties.

"Because it is not going to be possible to require that the course be taken in any particular year ... [the course] cannot be part of a sequence," said Benton. "The number of courses that are useful in a given curriculum will be limited."

Benton pointed out that the new policy may encourage the development of "modularized" six-unit courses that could be "mixed and matched" with others. However, he stressed that these are presently only ideas.

"The bottom line is that IAP is not going to change in any radical way anytime soon. But we do now have more opportunity to be creative about how we teach and learn at MIT, and to take what we do during IAP more seriously," Benton said.