REBECCA BAINER — General Assignment Reporter
While most Southern students will have a few weeks to relax after finals, some will continue their studies with one of the over 70 classes offered during the 2012 winter break, which starts on Dec. 27 and runs through Jan. 13.
The schedule of winter break classes varies every year, and Frank LaDore, interim director of academic advisement, said this year courses will be more compressed than previous years because the spring semester starts earlier than normal.
“All classes have to be a certain amount of hours,” said LaDore, “so the hours of a three-credit class is the same [as a normal semester].”
All three-credit courses offered at Southern during the fall and spring semester must cover two and a half hours per week, during the semester’s 14 weeks, said LaDore. Therefore, classes during winter break must equate to the same number of hours in a much shorter time period.
“It’s the same amount of work as a full semester course but you’re doing it in two weeks,” said LaDore, “so it’s basically a full-time job for two weeks. You’re living in the classroom and then when you’re not in the classroom you’re doing work for the class. It’s so condensed you have to have time management skills in order to be successful.”
LaDore said one the benefits to taking a class over winter break is that students are able to enroll in classes that typically fill up quickly during the semester, such as world language, communications and journalism.
“You’re going to get classes that you might not necessarily get over the fall or the spring, and increase your credits and get you closer to graduation,” said LaDore. “The ultimate goal for everybody is to graduate. So, if you can throw an intersession in there and throw a spring break and throw a couple summers, that’s a full semester. So you could take a semester or even a year off your graduation time.”
Gregory Paveza, dean of the School of Health and Human Services, said enrollment for this winter’s courses seem to be typical of previous years and there are pros and cons to enrolling in one of these classes.
“The advantage is that you have an intensive experience and a compressed time frame to immerse yourself in the material,” said Paveza. “At the same time, this can be a disadvantage as well as it requires a concentrated focus in order to succeed in the class.”
It is not only students who face challenges associated with the compacted class schedule, said Paveza, but also professors who must be well prepared with lectures and assignments.
“When you’re teaching over 16 weeks, if it becomes apparent that students are having a problem with a concept, you can always adjust things and modify your movement forward in the class,” said Paveza. “When you’re presenting something in 15 or 16 days, by the time an instructor becomes aware that students in the class may have had a problem with a concept, it may be almost impossible to back-up and revisit the concepts.”
William Faraclas, public health department chairman, is one of the professors who faces those challenges. Faraclas, who will be teaching a public health course over the 2012 winter break, said he has been teaching classes over winter break for a couple of decades and he uses different activities, guest lecturers and audio visual components and discussion among students to keep the five hour daily classes interesting.
“This all has to do with teaching method,” said Faraclas. “If you put students in a classroom and try to lecture it’s not going to work. But the course is planned in a lot of modules so the course really skips along quite nicely.”
Faraclas said the public health class he teaches is only offered during the winter session and he usually has about a 99 percent attendance rate during the winter. He also said students perform about the same as they do during his fall and spring classes.
“Everybody comes to class eager to learn,” said Faraclas. “My experience, with the students I’m teaching is highly motivated. They work very hard, they are inquisitive, they ask really good questions and contribute a lot. It’s a stimulating environment for me as well as for them.”
Although he holds intersession courses in high regard, Faraclas said students are sometimes reluctant to take a course during winter break, but when they do they are rarely disappointed.
“What I have found universally is that when they leave they are really glad not only that they took the course,” said Faraclas, “but that they did it in this fashion and they understand a logic in why the course is presented in the way that it is.”
According to the registrar’s office it is $1,239 for a three-credit course during winter break in addition to a one-time registration fee of $55.