With an early start, no breaks and an extended, two-month winter hiatus, Nebraska’s academic calendar looked a lot different this year.
The shortened schedule was designed to discourage students from traveling back and forth between campus around the holidays, which experts were predicting would be a rough time for the coronavirus pandemic.
It also sparked an idea: What if the university offered condensed courses during the long winter break, similar to sessions held each summer?
Nearly 175 courses and 4,000 enrolled students later, the concept has been a resounding success.
“Along with so many universities across the country, the pandemic has been a time of persistent challenges for Nebraska,” said Amy Struthers, experiential learning coordinator with the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor. “These three-week courses, which we began planning last summer, have been an unexpected bright spot. We’ve heard lots of positive feedback from students about how the classes have helped them move forward in their college careers.”
The three-week “winterim” courses, offered remotely in two separate sessions during December and January, presented students with an opportunity to catch up on credits and add new majors or minors to their degrees. Combined, Huskers earned a total of 10,000 credit hours over the past two months.
“I enrolled in a three-week course because it allowed me to reduce my credit-hour load in the spring and declare a double major,” said Lauren Kubat, a senior in the College of Business. “I am an accounting major, and prior to the announcement that there would be the mini sessions, I didn’t think I would be able to move my minor up to a major. This gave me an opportunity to do just that.”
Recent graduate Jenny Figueroa took a three-week class in December to complete her ethnic studies major. Financially, Figueroa was not able to register for the spring semester, making the shortened session a perfect fit.
“[The session] made such a positive change because I was feeling so down,” she said. “I felt like I had to give up a lot, you know, because I have done so much for my ethnic studies major. So knowing that I had this opportunity to take a class this semester and still graduate in 2020, I felt like … I’m pushing through.”
For faculty members, the sessions provided a chance to get creative and pursue course concepts they’d always wanted to try.
Timothy Hodges, executive director of the Clifton Strengths Institute, helped prepare students for the changing job market with business course “The Future of Work.” Tamy Burnett, assistant director of the Honors Program, created “Sitcoms and Social Change” to explore how TV shows can introduce new perspectives and topics to society. Students could even learn about nutrition, food safety and food composition during Andreia Bianchini‘s “The Science of Food” course.
“I can’t express enough how proud I am of our faculty members,” Struthers said. “Throughout the past year, they have pulled through to bring innovative new ways of learning to our students, proving there really is no place like Nebraska.”