Thursday, October 23, 2008
Have you been able to make a January intersession work on your campus?
If so, how?
The current working theory is that we can give people a head start on college, or work on the college-prep stuff in an intense, high-touch environment.
Like MountainLaurel suggested, though, it took a few years to really find its feet.
Many of these don't map well to CC's, of course, but some could prove to be very effective. There are issues to be overcome, of course: the on-campus courses require a strong commitment from the students: 3 hours per day, 5 days per week allows you a much greater degree of focus than a traditional schedule, but isn't always viable for non-traditional students.
Ours makes good money because we don't offer fin-aid for it and it's taught almost exclusively by non-tenure-line faculty.
There aren't huge enrollment numbers but we still manage to add classes each year and they all continue to "make" (meet a minimum number).
It's when all the fun stuff happens -- the Mystery Hunt, the Robot Competition, Charm School, the geology field camps, etc. I think you can also take compressed versions of regular-semester classes then, but the appeal is the fun stuff.
Don't know how it would translate to a CC, but it works great at MIT for getting people to relax and be creative and do educational activities beyond the classroom.
In addition to a change of pace between the semesters, many study abroad courses and the occasional opportunity to repeat a course for a better grade, we are trying to create unique learning opportunities. First-year students must now take a seminar course in their first Jan. term, and upperclassmen have expressed jealousy over some of these courses restricted to first-years only. But we're also requiring all students to take a second j-term course in which they either study off campus, complete an internship or perform some type of directed readings or research.
Jan. term allows a nice space for experimental, specialized or individualized learning that we aren't able to do as much in the semesters or in summer sessions.
In a large metro area, it may be hard to cover those classes with adjuncts unless other places have a J term as well.
In fact, the one-credit course option seems even better suited for community colleges than four-year schools. A single credit doesn't do much for a student when she takes the standard four courses (of four credits) each semester for four years. A part-time cc student who spends several years at the school could, over time, easily get a full four credits out of J-term courses.
One other possible benefit: January is as close to down time as you're likely to find for staff. Smith's J-term set up lets particularly talented staff members teach courses on their specialties (for extra pay, of course, but the pay is not all that great; you might be able to offer to let people do it during working hours).
Finally, Smith sets up the schedule like so: people who want to teach courses (whether they're professors, students or whatever) apply online with a course outline and when they could teach it. For-credit courses get vetted by departments at some point. A person/committee then chooses the courses and sets up a schedule.
One last point: you might be able to run some trips abroad if you made sure that the costs went straight to the students. You might even be able to earn a (small bit) of money off of it. Smith didn't start trips abroad until its J-term history had been well-established, and they usually offered credit. If abroad is too much, what about a week-long trip to, for example, Revolutionary War battlefield sites in the Maryland/DC/Virginia area? That could offer credit for U.S. history. Similarly, do you have interesting local rock formations? Science credit there. Fossils? Museums? As long as you're careful to have the funds come from the students, there are probably a lot of options that you hadn't thought of.
Granted, that assumes that some students can afford museum entries/bus fees/et cetera, but local trips tend to be relatively cheap, and students often will go above and beyond for a chance to get some credit for a fun-sounding course.