Compacted course sessions lead to shortest winter break in 10 years

Students and faculty are preparing for the shortest winter break in 10 years.

According to the University Registrar’s website, this year’s winter break will last 19 days, compared to 22 last year.

Between 2002 and 2010, winter break was between 33 and 37 days.

University Registrar Lou Ann Denny said the academic calendar changed because the condensed seven-and-a-half-week A and B session classes were added in spring 2012.  The C session classes are regular-length 15-week semesters.

“Because (the A and B sessions) were new, we had to see how they would work, but (the calendar) had to be tweaked a little,” Denny said.

The University plans to keep offering courses in all three sessions, but enrollment figures are not yet available, Denny said.

According the registrar’s website, the University hopes that the A and B session classes will allow professors to further their own research projects.

W. P. Carey School of Business information systems lecturer Bob Wood said winter break has been shortened to lengthen summer break, which allows students opportunities to take classes in the summer.

With the longer summer break, students can take two six-week sessions or one eight-week session.

Summer break has been lengthened from between 99 and 103 days during the last 10 years to 113 days in the summer of 2012.

“Personally, I don’t like it,” Wood said. “Here we are in Arizona, and I would rather have a longer break at Christmas and a shorter break in summer when it is hot.”

Wood said higher education seems to be headed in the direction of a five-term system with each term lasting seven-and-a-half weeks.

“The positive impact and the reason we are going that way is that it gives (students) the opportunity to start school year-round,” he said. “The idea that school starts in September is definitely dying.”

Hanna Ramsey, a political science junior from California, said she is happy with the length of this year’s winter break.

“I like getting out in April and having a shorter break at Christmas,” she said. “I’d like to have more time over summer to do classes or travel.”

Ramsey is graduating a year early in the spring.

She said she has made use of several A and B session classes and took at least one each semester.

“I like the half-semester condensed classes,” she said. “They helped me be able to graduate early.”

Ramsey said she thought fall break was rather pointless.

“(For students), it would be better to put those two days at Thanksgiving,” she said. “I’d rather have a full week then.”

Denny said the University implemented a fall break as a processing period between the A and B sessions this fall.

“If you finish a class in A and it is a pre-requisite for a class in session B, then we want to have enough time to get grades entered and keep students in that next class,” Denny said.

Public relations junior Kendra Rutledge is taking a women’s studies session B class next semester.

She said the class will cover the cultural diversity credit she needs to graduate.

Rutledge said she is more willing to take her general education classes online or in shorter time periods.

“I figured I’d just take that really quick (and) get it done,” she said.

Educational leadership and innovation professor Dale Baker said the seven-and-a-half-week sessions work just as well as the 15-week sessions, as long as professors rethink the structure of their courses.

“It depends on what courses are being offered and what kinds of material students are engaged in,” she said.

Education graduate student Sierra Campbell said the shortened winter break might be a bigger deal to out-of-state students.

“As someone who lives here, it feels right, because a lot of our projects in the teachers’ college relate to the community, and the community does not shut down for 34 days,” she said.

UA has a 27-day break this year, while NAU’s break is 32 days.

Next year, summer break will cut down from 113 days to 106 days, and the University’s winter break will extend from 19 days to 28 days.


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