January term

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September 18, 2014

10:37 PM

When students leave the College of William and Mary for winter break, they face a month with little to do. Jobs and internships are almost non-existent, and campus is officially closed. Once the holidays end, students have three weeks before classes start. Offering a one or two-week long winter term could provide students with more learning opportunities and allow professors to experiment while teaching what they love.

Abbreviated courses would help students who need credits. Although the courses would only be one or two credits, they could lighten students’ course loads during the semester and potentially help some students save money and graduate early.

Similarly, demanding schedules during the semester can prevent students from pursuing their academic interests. Abbreviated courses could engage students who missed out on courses they were interested in during the previous semester.

Further, these courses could teach essential skills that students would not normally learn at the College. Students could take week-long courses on social media analytics, basic web design, programming languages or even Microsoft Excel — skills which businesses, non-profits and media organizations desperately need. The world is changing at a faster rate than the world of higher education, and courses like these could help the College keep up with those changes.

Perhaps the Cohen Career Center could offer a career development workshop. Students could spend a week learning about job and internship applications, interviewing and networking. Without distractions, students could learn the nuances of email etiquette, Skype or phone interviews, thank you notes and resume building.

Social science professors could teach a methods review class, reviewing the basics of research and statistical analysis programs like SPSS and STAT. Since social science majors are only required to take one or two methods courses, they can easily forget these skills. In a data-driven world, even non-social science majors would benefit from these courses.

The Mason School of Business could offer a course on personal finance to educate students about saving and investing. Given the student debt crisis and the still-weak economy, this information would be pivotal.

Professors could use abbreviated courses to experiment with the format of their classes. They could use project-based learning methods, or they could take students on trips throughout the week.

Professors may have passions that they are unable to fit into traditional semester-long courses. Winter sessions could give professors the opportunity to share research and expertise with dedicated students in a small class environment.

The College offers students an excellent education for most of the year. Providing students and professors with a week-long winter session would give students and professors opportunities not available during the semester, allowing students to learn essential skills and giving professors the chance to try new things. With so many different options, a winter session would be a simple addition for the College to try-out this winter.

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