Course number changes to create uniform code for every department

A university-wide overhaul to the course numbering system is currently in the final stages of planning and is set to begin in fall 2007. Course numbers are presently part of a three-digit numbering system, but

A university-wide overhaul to the course numbering system is currently in the final stages of planning and is set to begin in fall 2007.

Course numbers are presently part of a three-digit numbering system, but will change to a four-digit system.

The change in course numbering is due to inconsistency and a lack of clarity across university colleges and departments, according to a co-chairman of the group formed to design the new system, Dr. Ralph Jenkins, senior associate dean for the College of Science and Technology.

The new course numbers will designate the levels of all courses. For example, a course without prerequisites designed to be taken by freshmen students will begin with one. A course designed for second year students with level 1 prerequisites will begin with two, and so on.

All schools and colleges are required to renumber their courses, with the exception of professional-level courses in the professional schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Pharmacy and Podiatric Medicine. Undergraduate and graduate courses in all other schools must renumber, not including graduate courses in the Law School.

Temple currently maintains three separate data systems for student records, Human Resources and financial records, but plans to replace these separate systems with a unified data system at some point in the future, according to Jenkins.

“These unified systems expect a course numbering system that is internally consistent and clear,” Jenkins said. “Renumbering will restore logical consistency to the system, which will make the transition to a new data system easier, make institutional reporting easier and more accurate, and will make the numbers more comprehensible to advisors and students.”

Richard Moore, a freshman computer science major, doesn’t find the current system too confusing, but said he thinks the new system will be easier since there is more distinction between the levels of courses.

Jenkins expects that advisors and students will easily grow accustomed to the new system.

“It will be highly consistent, unlike current practice,” Jenkins said. “It will be governed by clear rules and conventions that apply to all colleges.”

A translation table will be readily available to students and advisors so they can easily find the new course numbers.

“It will make it easier,” Peter Bio, a senior international business major, said. “You will know each level of the courses you choose, and which courses you have to take.”

Moving to a four-digit system will mean that numbers will not have to be recycled as frequently as they are in the previous three-digit system, Jenkins said.

The first meeting to plan the project was held in fall 2003.

In the early stages of the process, the committee consisted of data managers from each school and college in the university, along with representatives from all the offices that would be affected by renumbering. Task forces of representatives were formed to work out details of the project and to propose a consistent numbering system.

“Our task force did a great deal of research before proposing a new numbering system,” Jenkins said. “It is clear that, nationally, four-digit numbering systems are replacing three-digit systems, for the same reasons Temple is changing systems.”

It was a challenge to ensure that the rules created were precise enough that all renumbers could apply them, while being broad enough that they would not disallow legitimate course numbers in any college, Jenkins said.

They confronted the challenge by holding numerous meetings and inviting people from across the university to test the proposed system by applying the rules to their personal course inventories.

“We did not finalize the rules until we were content that everyone with an interest in the system had an opportunity to identify problems that we had not considered,” Jenkins said.

Larger university systems, such as the state system in Texas, use five-digit course numbers that are mandated for all universities in the state system. The five-digit system ensures accuracy in transferring credits from one university to another, and maintains uniform degree-granting requirements, according to Jenkins.

“As a stand-alone university, Temple does not yet need a five-digit system, and our current student data software supports only a four-digit system,” he said. “However, a consistent four-digit system will translate relatively easily to software that supports five-digit systems. Temple is implementing the best national practices in this project.”

Leigh Zaleski can be reached at

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