Last Updated on August 1, 2022 by David Shaw
As college students, you will likely encounter the term “TBA” at some point when choosing classes and might be wondering about what it means.
The term TBA or TBD is an acronym for “To be announced” or “decided” and is mostly seen in college when choosing classes. Generally, universities will either label an instructor of a class or the class time as TBA which has completely different meanings.
Classes that have the TBA/TBD labels can have very different meanings which might be something new to you especially if you’re a freshman. If this is your time first time hearing about this, then this article will definitely help you understand the difference as well as whether should you choose them.
Why Do Some Classes in College Have With TBA-Labeled Options?
Based on my experience and what I noticed in college, classes that have TBA or TBD labels happen for mainly 3 reasons, and that is due to a lack of instructors, college budgeting issues, or the possibility of asynchronous classes.
Throughout the academic year, universities strategically plan and predict the number of classes for each subject and course to ensure the enrollment demand for each class is provided. When the time for class registration comes, this ensures that students can A enroll in classes without worrying about classes being full before they can register.
However, under the circumstances when certain classes offered is under demand for students to enroll in, TBA options will inevitably appear in the class selection process.
What Does a ‘TBA-Labeled Instructor’ for a Class Mean?
Classes with TBA-labeled instructors are mostly caused by budgeting issues and a lack of instructors in a college, some universities might label them with other terms, but they often mean the same thing. Let’s further understand why some classes are specifically labeled with a ‘to-be-decided’ or ‘to-be-announced’ instructor.
Every semester or quarter, college departments meticulously plan out how many sessions each class should, and depending on the number of classes the department chooses to open, they will label the instructor for any class as TBA if there are no more available resident instructors to take the class.
And as residence or full-time instructors in a college fill up their teaching schedules for the next academic term, any additional classes beyond their minimum required threshold are optional and non-obligatory.
Let’s say your university decides to open up 4 separate sessions for a Physics class, then the next thing your university should do is allocate instructors to teach the classes. If most of the schedules of all available instructors are already occupied, it is where some classes will be labeled with TBA instructors.
When or How Do You Know Who Will Be the TBA Instructor?
Students enrolled in the class will usually know anywhere from one to four weeks before classes begin from an introductory email from the instructor themselves.
So the next time you’re wondering why your classes in college have an instructor labeled as TBA, it simply means the faculties within the department are already at full capacity with the number of classes they can teach. In this case, your university faculty won’t explicitly tell you, and they will resort to hiring temporary guest instructors or hope residence instructors will optionally take them.
What to Expect When Choosing a TBA Instructor Labeled Class
There usually is 2 possible scenarios when you see a class with TBA labeled instructors — your college department is discussing with an instructor to teach that class, or looking to temporarily hire a guest instructor.
If your college department decides to hire a guest instructor from other universities, expect the difficulty or dynamics of the class to shift due to their different pace or style of teaching. However, in my experiences of taking classes that were taught by guest instructors hired from other universities, they were very open to suggestions and accommodations to students’ requests since they understand things might be a little different from the university they mostly teach at.
Should You Choose a Class With a TBA-Labeled Instructor?
The decision of choosing classes with a TBA-labeled instructor is all on you, but I would say the chances of getting a good lecturer are always 50/50 chance. To better wager your chances on a good experience out of picking a TBA lecturer, always look at the other available classes that have the instructors listed before you blindly choose the TBA lecturer without knowing what you’re signing up for.
In my college years, although most of my decision in choosing TBA-labeled instructors were my last options, they all turned out to be a great decision in the end, regardless if they are resident or guest instructors. While some might ask when should they choose a TBA instructor class, I’d say it’s worth the gamble if you know the other choices of the sessions are paired with a difficult professor.
What Does a TBA-Labeled Class Schedule Mean?
On the other hand, a TBA labeled class time schedule has a totally different meaning compared to a TBA instructor. Fortunately, classes labeled with a TBA time schedule don’t mean it will be decided later on, but usually means that the modality of the class will be conducted asynchronously online.
Well in that case, why not just label it as an online class you might ask? That’s just how things work in college, and you should be familiar with and quickly realize classes with TBA labeled time mean an asynchronous class the next time you come across it.
Is Online Class and Asynchronous Class the same?
Technically, they share some similar meanings which confuse a lot of people, but asynchronous classes are not the same as online classes and shouldn’t be used interchangeably. An asynchronous class is a mode of class that is not conducted and participated by students at the same time, and it usually lets every individual student access assignments, quizzes, or midterms on their own schedule.
Only with asynchronous classes, you can take the class even if you’re at a different timezone and submit or start a timed assignment individually in their own time before the due date.
Difference between an Asynchronous vs. Synchronous classes
The modality of asynchronous classes is usually conducted online, hence why many people confuse between the two terms. Online class refers to non-physical classes, but instructors can still start a Zoom class at a specific time for students to attend. Instead, the better way to rephrase the same question is to ask: Is an asynchronous class the same as a synchronous class?
Conversely, all kinds of lectures that are conducted at the same time, including quizzes and midterms are synchronous, regardless if they’re online or physical. As for asynchronous classes, your lecturer can post the lecture recordings for the week, and students can access and start working on them at their own pace, individually on their own time.
Maximizing the Benefits of a TBA Class Schedule
The main thing I like about TBA time schedule classes because they can fit right into my weekly class schedule without having to worry about any time conflict issues. Yes, classes with TBA time schedules will not have time conflicting issues with your other classes. As a bonus, if you can even fit a few more extra asynchronous classes into your schedule, you’re going to save some commuting time to classes.
Almost all your homework will be done using a computer and whereas assignments, quizzes, and exams are submitted with scans. And the best part is you get to easily get to keep a copy of your coursework given that they must be uploaded online by your instructors in order for students to access them.
What can you do about a TBA labeled instructor class?
Although there’s likely less thing you can do about a class with TBA-labeled instructors, one thing you can do is contact or talk to your head of department to enquire about who the prospective instructor will be.
During one of my quarters in college, a similar batch of graduating students were facing one short of a Physics class in order to successfully graduate. After many emails and petitions, this group of students was able to convince the Physics head of department to open an additional Physics class which they were also able to convince and influence who the TBA instructor turned out to be.