SUNY New Paltz is offering its first winter session courses.
All matriculated and non-matriculated students who meet course prerequisites have an option of taking one of four three-credit online courses over the three-week period during winter break, according to Newpaltz.edu.
Registration for the session started on Monday, Dec. 3. The four courses offered include Art of the Western World II, Survey of Communication Disorders, Evolution for Everyone and Media and Society. Two of these courses meet general education requirements, and as President Donald Christian said, will allow students to “catch-up” on their coursework.
Christian said this session is just a pilot, but if it goes well and demand is high, New Paltz will offer winter sessions in the future.
Associate Dean of the Department of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Instructor Stella Turk said winter classes have been talked about for a number of years and students have shown a genuine interest in the classes. She said she knows of students taking winter classes through other outlets and is happy that New Paltz is finally offering them.
“I’m glad we’re doing it, I have to tell you this conversation’s been going on for a long time,” she said. “Even though we’ve had a very short window to roll it out, we had faculty that wanted to do it and students willing to enroll, and I think it has the potential to be something that’s really good over the next few years.”
Turk, who will be teaching Survey of Communication Disorders, said the most important part of this session for students is to not over burden themselves, even though it seems like a very short period of time.
“I think [students] certainly can do one course and get a lot out of it, but if they are planning to work or do a lot of travel that’s not going to work,” she said. “Students have to understand that there will be a significant time commitment, anybody who teaches online warns students of that time commitment. What I tell students for my course is that I can anticipate three hours a day, five days a week… and on the weekend maybe three to five hours and if you think of it that way, times three weeks that’s sort of the equivalent to what you are doing in a 15-week semester. But three weeks, three credits, it is a beautiful thing.”
Turk has been teaching online courses for more than 10 years and said the format fosters a greater sense of independence and allows her to introduce new forms of technology into the classroom.
“I expect that it will be interactive, yet I don’t expect students to get on at the same time, so it should have that freedom, that flavor of an online experience,” she said. “I like seeing how students are benefiting from these different ways in which we can teach them or different ways they can learn the material.”
Professor Kerry Carso said she also enjoys teaching online courses and in some ways feels more connected to her students when teaching in this format. Carso said she is looking forward to this three-week session and hopes to do it again in the future.
“In my seated Art of the Western World II class, I teach 35 students per section [and] when I have discussions, not everyone chooses to participate,” she said. “In the online format, I have only 22 students per section [and] in order to get credit for participating in the discussion, the online students must post responses to my questions and to their classmates regularly. In some ways, I get to know the online students better than in the traditional classroom.”
Turk said the winter session could help a lot of students in the long run.
“There are always those students who are supposed to graduate in December and they find out they’re short a couple of credits and in three weeks they could get that resolved by taking a course,” she said. “That’s huge for those students, opposed to going somewhere else or waiting for the spring and for those students I think it’s good.”