In the winter of 2016 the college introduced a new set of classes to allow students to earn credit hours during the normal winter break. The four-week classes present their own unique challenges and benefits as students strive to learn material typically taught in a 16-week course.
Taking a Class
The main challenge of the winter session courses, or “winterims,” is the speed at which the material is taught.
Hannah Ewing, student, took Composition I during the winterim of 2017.
“If you’re not paying attention, you’re going to fall behind,” Ewing said. “It’s pretty intense. You really have only four weeks to get everything done because classes start during finals week and then they end right when spring semester starts.”
Ewing wanted to catch up and prepare herself to take higher-level courses at the college. Her counselor suggested she take some classes during the summer and winter breaks in order to accelerate her course progression.
While Ewing found success in her winterim classes, she advises students to take steps before enrolling in these fast-paced courses.
“I would suggest taking a summer class first because you have more time over summer break,” Ewing said. “You have eight weeks instead of four weeks. That gives you an idea of what it’s like to take a class outside of the regular 16-week semester. It sets you up for how fast those classes are going to end up being.”
Ewing believes that a few steps are necessary to help students for a winter course.
“Do your research, figure out how difficult that class is on its own, read the ‘Rate My Professor’ reviews,” Ewing said. “Make sure you’re getting an instructor that you think you’re going to work well with because I think that makes all the difference.”
These winterim classes provide a strong resource for students to accelerate their academic path.
“They’re difficult but I think it’s worth it,” Ewing said. “It helps you get something out of the way so that you can focus on more important classes in your fall and spring semesters.”
Building a Winterim
From the first trial run in 2015, through the last two years, faculty and administrators at the college worked hard to ensure students have success in the winterim courses they enroll in.
Michael McCloud, vice president of Academic Affairs/Chief Academic Officer, came to the college in 2016 and has worked with the program since.
“The ultimate idea and goal behind both the winterim and the summer [classes] is to allow students to seamlessly work through material so that there isn’t as much information loss and it actually speeds time of completion of the degree,” McCloud said.
The administration put safeguards to help students know if winterim classes are right for them. These safeguards, such as academic advisers, increased retention in winterim classes and helped the winterim program to achieve a high success rate in its first years.
“Very few students actually fail a course,” said McCloud. “We have safeguards built at the front of winterim wherein the students get advising and counseling. So much conversation happens on the front end as students are enrolling in the classes that a lot of people who would drop are warned off before they ever make the attempt.”
Over the last two years, McCloud has noticed a pattern in the types of students enrolling in winterim classes.
“We probably see more visiting student and students nearing the last semester of their second year,” said McCloud. “It has to be a student who is aligned to a more online environment, who is a real self-starter and who is capable of organizing their day around a set planned schedule.”
McCloud suggests students use the winterim and summer courses in different ways to help them further their education.
“Winterim is really for a student to try to knock out something they already excel in,” McCloud said. “Whereas summer is really a place for you to focus down on the things where you need to build strength.”
While the administration builds and manages the structure of the winterim program the organization of material taught in each class is left up to the respective faculty.
Allison Smith, professor, Art History, is one such faculty member who teaches an ancient art history class during the winterim session.
“I basically took my eight-week summer class and tried to configure it into four weeks,” said Smith. “It’s the exact same amount of content and that was something that we were told, that it had to be because students are getting 3 credit hours.”
Smith worked hard to ensure that her students have all the resources they need for success in her class. She believes that organization is the key to success in such a fast-paced course.
“I don’t let it be self-paced in any way, it’s just pretty organized and structured, for example, every exam is on a Monday,” Smith said.
Smith was excited to see the great success students experienced in her course over the last two winterim sessions.
“I was so surprised at the grades at the end of the semester it was probably my best group of online students I have ever had,” said Smith. “It’s almost as if they knew the meek need not apply.”
While Smith’s course is full for this winterim, she too recommends students with the right mindset enroll in the upcoming winterim session.
She said, “If you are motivated and you can do your own instruction and you’re good at reading comprehension, it’s a great option to knock out [several] credit hours over your break.”