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University announces Winter Session pilot

By : Katie Ellis

Those used to heading home during the break between the fall and spring semesters will have another option for spending their time come next January when Binghamton University offers a Winter Session.

A pilot program will be conducted as a separate term and not considered part of the spring or fall academic semesters.

Thomas Kowalik, director of Continuing Education & Outreach, said the pilot will include approximately 18 to 20 undergraduate courses and a few graduate courses, taught in a two-and-a-half week period.

“The session will be intensive, but research shows that we can teach this way,” Kowalik said. “Students are much more sophisticated and the short, intensive format is attractive to non-traditional as well as traditional students. We need to look for alternative ways to meet their needs and deliver to our target audiences, and this will help us do it.”

Mary Ann Swain, provost and vice president for academic affairs agrees. “As the needs of students change, they want more options,” she said. “This session offers fluidity and we need to be adaptive.” The experiment, as Swain calls it, will offer both on-campus and distance learning instruction in the compressed time period. “We need to craft a greater variety of ways that students can learn and meet their graduation requirements,” she said.

The four-credit courses will meet state regulations of at least 562 minutes per credit. Given the compressed format, classes will likely meet daily, Monday through Friday, beginning January 3, unless taught through distance education with faculty able to begin coursework in December.

All Winter Session classes must end by January 21. Courses will be selected for the pilot program based upon five criteria: they must demonstrate high student demand, be appropriate for distance education delivery, meet general education requirements, be effectively delivered in a condensed format and help students meet degree requirements in a timely fashion.

Faculty are being asked to submit course proposals as they would for Summer Session. Deadline for proposals is May 31. Departments will be notified after a decision is made, a class schedule will be available by late August and registration will take place between November 25 and December 12, with a late registration date of December 20.

Kowalik said the pilot will offer a great opportunity for students. “We’re hearing what students are saying,” he said. “They want more flexibility and the option to go year-round. They’re less wedded to traditional terms and this will give them another option. It’s one more way our institution can show its responsiveness to the needs of our students.”

The experiment also requires a rethinking of the way a number of operations take place. Kowalik’s staff will actually enter all data manually because the campus currently isn’t set up to handle another, separate term. “This leads to many operational issues,” Kowalik said. “How to register, how to handle financial aid... If it’s successful, it will require every system on campus to be retrofitted to deal with the registration process.” Some of the operational considerations include housing, transportation, food service, financial aid, computer pod access and parking.

For example, students already residing in residence halls may continue to do so during Winter Session, but be assigned to Windham, Mohawk or one of the apartments. The only bus service will be provided by Broome County Transit. In addition, the Susquehanna Room will be open for lunches, but students will be expected to provide their own breakfasts and dinners. No financial aid will be available, but computer POD access will be offered. Students who already possess parking permits will maintain their parking privileges. There will also be a one-month permit available for purchase.

It’s still early in the process but Kowalik and Swain are hopeful. “Like any innovation that requires one to rethink how to do something, there will be immediate innovators,” Swain said. “What’s likely to take off is hard to predict but we believe some students will be attracted to the focused, concentrated learning.

“It’s a pilot because we want to assure ourselves that the learning we want can happen,” Swain said. And with increased accessibility to Binghamton University, Kowalik said that Winter Session “will deliver excellence in another format.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08