Winter semester shortens this year


Austin Yattoni

Foellinger Auditorium in the snow on Dec. 4. While living in the Midwest, it’s important to know what is appropriate to wear during which season, writes brand manager Brooke.

By Luke Cooper, Staff writer

University Professor Stephen Altaner has taught GEOL 118, Natural Disasters, twice as a winter semester course. And though Altaner said he will be teaching the course again this winter, he acknowledges that this year will bring more of a challenge.

“It’s going to be more intense,” he said. “I’m going to be working faster and more furiously, no question. And that’s the way students are going to have to be as well.”

Unlike previous winter semesters, which have had 24 to 25 instructional days for courses, this year’s winter semester allots only 21 instructional days, the minimum amount required for a winter semester.

The reduction in winter semester instructional days is partly due to this year’s fall semester start date having to be on a Monday, 12 weeks before Thanksgiving week as opposed to a Monday, 13 weeks before Thanksgiving week.

Altaner said his four-week online winter course usually doubles the amount of work students have in a week when compared to his eight-week online course, both of which are expected to be equal to an in-person 16-week course in subject matter and overall workload.

“A four-week format requires students to be on top of the course work the whole time,” he said. “And a three-week format is going to be even more so. With an eight-week online course, you could go multiple days without logging in or doing anything and still do fine, but that would be challenging for a four-week format and practically impossible with anything less than that.”

Christmas and New Year’s also complicates winter semester course planning, said Altaner, because few students wish to do school work so close to the holidays.

“You can’t schedule anything on Christmas, and nobody likes to work on Christmas Eve,” he said. “And the same thing applies with New Year’s and New Year’s Eve, so you really have four days which are compromised (during a winter semester).”

Assistant Provost for Educational Innovation and winter semester overseer, Adam Fein, said even though the overall winter break is shorter, maintaining the minimum 21 instruction days assures little variance in course planning.

“While the learning can be intense, said Fein, “due to the overwhelming success of the first three years, we don’t anticipate any issues.”

Angharad Valdivia, professor in Media and Cinema Studies, has taught online and in-person winter semester courses before, and said that it’s hard to make a four-week course any shorter given their nature.

“I feel like that semester is already so short,” said Valdivia. “I don’t think that you can deliver a semester’s worth (of content) in anything less than what it already is.”

Continuously condensing courses, Valdivia said, makes it more unrealistic to expect students to stay on top of coursework.

“For a 300-level (Cinema Studies) course, which is what I’ve taught online,” Valdivia said. “I assume students are going to read two chapters per day in addition to other popular culture materials. When you then have to multiply that amount by four or five per day, I’m not sure that students will do that.”

Instructors at the University had from May 18 to June 23 to propose a course they’d wish to teach this winter semester to the Office of the Provost. The shortened winter semester’s overall influence on University instructors is unknown until the winter semester’s class schedule is published onto the University’s Course Explorer on Oct. 6.

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