Winter term reports increased enrollment

For the second year Murray State has offered a winter term where students were able to take classes online from Dec. 17 until Jan. 9.

Don Robertson, vice president of Student Affairs said one of the reasons Murray State provides this option is to furnish an alternative way to take classes outside of the traditional fall, spring and summer terms.

“By providing classes over the winter term,” he said, “it can help students catch up, graduate early and for some students, it might be the only time they can take a particular class.”

Students wishing to take classes over winter break were able to sign up for a maximum of four credit hours and were able to choose from a total of 26 courses.

Of the 26 classes offered, 20 of them received the ten student minimum enrollment necessary for the class to be taught.  This total number of classes taught this year was down four classes from the 2011 winter term.

However, despite this drop in the number of classes taught during the break from last year, the attendance of this winter term actually increased.

Jay Morgan, associate provost said attendance was up 13 percent from 2011, the number of students enrolled rising from 161 to 182.  Morgan was the main driving force behind the idea to begin implementing a winter term at Murray State.

“Winter term is growing and it is a great way for students to catch up or get ahead in their programs,” Morgan said.

Morgan attributed the rise in participation in this year winter’s term to higher student awareness.

“Since this was our second year to offer the winter term, we do feel that students were more aware of it and its course offerings,” he said. “Last year’s winter term was a pilot year and because of marketing, advertising, and word of mouth, more students were attuned this year.”

This higher student participation was also bolstered by the larger amount of time students were given in which to register for the winter term.

Registration for the term began on Nov. 5 and students could continue to register until Dec. 12 essentially right up until the fall semester ended.  Students choosing to register after Nov. 16 had to pay a late fee.

All of the teachers taught during the break voluntarily and were compensated for their time.  The classes offered were diverse in both subject matter and skill level ranging from 100 to 600 level classes. The topics of these courses varied widely including government and poetry to animal science and the principles of marketing.

Ihsan Alkhatib, an assistant professor of Humanities and Fine Arts taught a class on the legal environment of business during the winter term which was his first experience teaching a class online.

He said the experience went very well and he thinks that offering a winter term is definitely helpful to students, especially international ones of whom half his class was composed.

“Sometimes taking the winter classes is the only way for a student to finish their schooling during the time frame the student planned,” he said. “This is a major issue with international students.”

Cody Myers, a junior from Benton Ky., took Alkhatib’s business law class this winter term and said after his experience with the term plans on using most, if not all of his future winter breaks for taking online classes.

“Not only did the online course flow well with my temporarily full-time work schedule, it also helped me maintain my momentum and good study habits from the fall semester while still resting for the spring term. It truly was a win-win situation.”

Morgan said he foresees Murray State offering a winter term for years to come and next year his plans include promoting more University study classes to be taught.

In a previous interview, Morgan also expressed an interest in offering not just online classes during future winter terms, but actually keeping parts of the University open to accommodate students who would prefer to be taught in classrooms.

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

Morgan said after two years of offering a winter term he feels the initiative has been a success.

Story by Ben Manhanke, Staff writer.