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New GPA calculator can influence students’ scheduling decisions

By Laura Fitzgerald, Senior Staff Writer

The new grade distribution calculator, displayed on the Office of the Registrar's website, has changed the way students search the average GPAs of classes and professors, possibly influencing their scheduling decisions.

The calculator shows variations in the average GPAs of classes and professors.

English 111, a Miami Plan class all students are required to take, has an average GPA of 3.6. However, with dozens of professors teaching it since 2013, average GPAs of individual sections range from a 2.7 to a 4.0.

Compare this to chemistry 141, the entry level class for the chemistry major. It stands at a 2.31, with individual sections ranging from a 1.99 to a 2.46.

First-year Ashley Williams said she uses the new grade distribution calculator to look up classes that will boost her GPA so she can get into the Farmer School of Business. She said she registers for the courses with the highest GPAs.

Williams also said that being a first-year, she is unfamiliar with the professors and who to take classes from.

However, it is not necessarily fair for students to base their scheduling decisions solely off this calculator, Williams said. For example, many people in her calculus class do not attend class, so their grades are not the professor's fault, nor are they representative of how he teaches.

Senior Ellie Roth said she knows websites such as this one exist, but she rarely uses them to determine what classes or professors to take.

Roth said she values a professor that she can learn a lot from over a professor that has a higher average GPA.

"It's more about the quality of the professor than the grades, so for me the website doesn't reflect that," Roth said.

Roth said she never really "teacher-picked," based on a professor's grade distribution. Usually, the difficulty level of a class doesn't deter her from taking it.

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For many of Roth's major classes, there may be limited options in professors available.

Roth is a microbiology major. The average grades she sees in her upper level major classes, such as microbiology 415 with an average GPA distribution of a 2.19, is indicative of the difficulty of her major, she said.

"The view of most students in my major is it's one of the more challenging ones," Roth said.

Sophomore Bailey Gebhard said she has used it to look up a Miami Plan science class. However, when she used it, the class and professor she wanted were not available.

She said she can see students using this calculator to look up Miami Plan classes or classes they don't expect to do well in.

Gebhard said she selects her classes and professors based on advice and feedback from friends. She also uses ratemyprofessors.com, a site that rates professors based on student reviews.

Frederick Reeder, visiting instructor of journalism, said grades are subjective because they are based on multiple factors, so average GPA is difficult to use as a measure of a class or major's academic rigor.

"Grades don't really reflect any one thing," Reeder said. "They don't necessarily reflect how tough a course or a major is because grades are made up of someone's ability, but it's also made up of are the students responsible? Are they showing up for class? Are they doing the assignments?"

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