University of Illinois to offer courses in Winter Session

By Abigale Svoboda

After longing for winter break, many students find themselves bored with their month-long vacation. Starting this winter, students can earn a few credits by taking newly-offered winter break classes.

The University will launch its online winter session pilot program during the 2014-2015 winter break. Students can enroll in one of eight different courses and earn up to four credit hours in four weeks. The University has never offered winter break courses, despite offering a summer session both online and on campus.

However, Adam Fein, associate director of The Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, said the University noticed other institutions were offering a similar program and there was an interest from students.

“We have a lot of students on our campus who do want to continue studying,” Fein said. “This provides an opportunity for some high-demand courses that are sometimes hard to get in the fall or the spring.”

Fein added that students’ desire to stay on track to graduate also played a part in implementing a winter session.

The winter session allows students to continue working toward their degree while traditional classes are not in session. However, these classes are paced much faster than normal courses since the winter session only allows a quarter of the time a normal semester does to learn the same amount of material.

Professor Eric Snodgrass, whose Severe and Hazardous Weather course will be offered during the session, said the shorter time frame will not impact the courses or the students’ education. His course, which has been a popular online, summer course, has been adjusted to fit the four-week period. He said there will be one exam during the winter session, as opposed to three during the regular fall and spring semester courses. Snodgrass said the course material will remain the same.

“Students in the winter session have no advantage over students in a 16-week version of the class, other than getting it done faster,” Snodgrass said.

He said students will have to be conscious of their time, but he said he believes taking a class over break is manageable since students would have more time to devote to the class.

Dan Steward, visiting professor in Sociology, will teach a course titled “Introduction to Sociology” during the winter session. He said he believes the winter session is a good way for students to really focus on one class at a time.

“We all today, but certainly today’s students, are juggling so much — multi-tasking constantly,” Steward said. “When do we have time to think the big thoughts, read the provocative texts, have a serious heart-to-heart with the stranger who helps us to see the world anew?”

The eight classes were selected based on their popularity, success in an online platform or ability to satisfy general education requirements. Fein said if this session goes well, more classes may be added in the future.

“Everyone involved seems very positive about this as an option,” Fein said. “It’s not right for every student, but for a student who wants to continue in their studies and is motivated to do so, it’s a nice opportunity to pick up a class.”

Students who wish to register for a winter session course can do so through Student Self-Service beginning Nov. 24. Classes must be added by Dec. 22 and can be dropped until Jan. 2, 2015. The Winter Session begins on Dec. 22 and ends on Jan. 16, 2015.

Tuition varies by year in school. For resident undergraduates, it costs between $1,041 and $1,608 and for nonresidents, between $2,454 and $3,664. Tuition for the Winter Session cannot be paid for by any type of financial aid.

A total of 895 students will be able to enroll in the pilot session. Fein said based on the popularity of online summer session courses, the University is expecting every class to be filled to capacity.

“We’re certainly taking this very seriously because we want to set the students up for success. There are many people involved in making this work,” Fein said. “It’s definitely been a team effort and we’re excited to give the students the best experience that we can.”

Abigale can be reached at [email protected]