Survey aims to solve space crisis

A new online survey is helping the university gauge the student body’s attitude toward alternative routes through the curriculum at Portland State.

Since Nov. 7, students signing into Banweb have been asked to complete a short survey determining their preferences for class days, times and locations. The results of the survey will not be analyzed until after it is taken off the web as winter term begins, said Rowanna Carpenter, a research analyst at the Office of Institutional Research and Planning.

The university is reaching out to students for guidance as classrooms fill up faster than the campus can expand its capacity. Terrel Rhodes, vice provost for curriculum and undergraduate studies, said the survey will give the university a sense of which days and times appeal to an increasingly diverse and far-flung student population.

"We tried to think of a lot of different ways to accommodate classes to students," he said. "That’s really the motivation behind [the survey]."

Besides different times of days, the survey asks students if they would be willing to take PSU classes on weekends or at one of several community colleges in the area. Rhodes said in some cases students will use community colleges to complete the final two years of degrees.

Already many upper-division classes are implementing online content, with some going completely web-based. There is also an interest in offering more intensive courses, more hours a day for a shorter span of time, Rhodes said.

The survey further asks students to rank a variety of amenities in importance. The choices range from availability of childcare and the cost of parking to library hours and participation in campus activities.

"Besides having an urban campus with limited space, we’re also responding to the range of lifestyles of our students," Rhodes said. "It can be difficult to come downtown during the day."

The surge in student population puts PSU in a uniquely problematic position.

"We’re not typical of most institutions," he said, "in that we have to try to meet the needs of students while recognizing the space limitations. People want to come here. We’ve got to give them a combination of options."

Rhodes said PSU, unlike a community college, doesn’t have the authority to utilize local bonds to build or acquire new buildings. Instead, the university must go through the state Legislature.

Carpenter said PSU did a similar, but simpler, survey about five years ago. The questions asked students to rank class days and times by first, second and third choice. Not surprisingly, the most popular time was 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the weekday. "That wasn’t exactly going to get the committee what they needed," she said.

In addition to illustrating the appeal of alternative formats, Carpenter said the survey will let the university see how students have changed in the past five years.

The survey is presented only once upon login, she said. Individual results are not kept and the survey may be declined without consequence.