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Winter term to be offered over break to help students get ahead

After last year’s success in implementing a winter term, Murray State will once again offer courses to be taken online over Winter Break.

The goal of the 2012 winter term is to offer students more flexibility, help improve their GPA, allow students to get ahead in credit hours in preparation for graduation and to allow those behind on hours to catch up.

The idea for the University to have a winter term and to again offer this service this year came from Jay Morgan, associate provost.

Last year, approximately 200 students enrolled in the winter term.  This year Morgan hopes to have even greater success.

“Last year’s winter term was so new, not everyone fully latched on to it and I think they will this year,” Morgan said.  “We have 26 courses this winter term and if they average about 10 people per course, that’s 250-260 people.”

Morgan said the job of implementing a winter term fell mostly on him, although preparing has required the help of schedulers in the provost’s office and the Bursar’s office, which was in charge of making the billing system code correctly so the office would be able to bill students correctly for the term.

“Some other universities also run a winter term and I thought it would be a good way to fill some of that month of dead space between Dec. 15 and Jan. 15, while allowing students the opportunity, particularly students who are very aggressive or want to catch up the opportunity to catch up or get ahead,” Morgan said. “The winter term was put in place to be very student service oriented,”

Classes for the winter term will start on Dec. 17 and last until Jan. 9.  Morgan said there are a couple “black-out” dates scheduled on Dec. 24, 25 and 31 and on Jan. 1, these dates being days when enrolled students will receive no assignments.

Assignments he said can be given every other day beside the four mentioned, be that a chat room discussion, a test given online or an online lecture.

Those slated to teach in one of the 26 available courses, roughly the same amount of classes provided last year, are all volunteers; those who came forward to answer the call when the University announced it would be having its second winter term this year and needed instructors.

Instructors will be paid for their time.

Ann Beck, associate professor of Humanities and Fine Arts, is teaching a course on American National Government this winter term and said she is teaching this winter because she found teaching the course online to be a good experience for her and the students.

Beck said taking courses this winter entails many benefits for students including the chance to get ahead on credits and graduate earlier.

Morgan echoed quicker graduation as a benefit of this program and said if students maximized the amount of hours they can take over winter for two or three terms they could potentially shave as much as a semester length off of their college degrees.

Registration for the winter term begins on Nov. 5 with Nov. 16 being the last day to register without having to pay a late fee.  Dec. 12 is the actual cut-off date, after which no more students may register for classes; students will register just as they would for the fall, spring or summer semester: through mygate.

For this term, students can only take up to four credit hours worth of classes, most of the classes being offered counting for three hours.

“The reason we capped it at four hours, at least for this outset, is because we want to make sure students are successful,” Morgan said. “We don’t necessarily want a student taking nine or 12 hours in a one month period.  We think a four hour class is pretty reasonable.”

Morgan said he can see Murray State offering more courses in future winter terms if this semester is a success, and possibly offering courses not just taught online.

“In the future I can see us having one or two more winter terms and then begin to open it up to courses being taught in a more traditional format such as maybe in a laboratory here on campus,” Morgan said.

The limiting factor to teaching classes at the University not online would be the cost of keeping the school open during the winter, a time at least for a two week period, when Murray State is closed to save money.

Story by Ben Manhanke, Staff writer.