Before last year’s winter break, I remember seeing an abundance of signage imprinted with the slogan “sled ahead” posted around campus. Almost every table in The Tully had the slogan written on a napkin box. This tagline incorporated information about the number of online courses offered over the winter break and a link to learn more about the school’s offerings.
The catchy slogan encapsulates an important feature of taking classes during the intercession; you can graduate early or move ahead faster with your major. Although, the benefits of taking summer or winter courses extend far beyond just graduating early.
Since Fairfield University has a core curriculum, taking a summer or winter course allows students to complete their Magis Core requirements faster to delve into their major-related classes sooner.
During the summer, I took a science class to free up my schedule to take more of the classes required for my major during the school year. This was a productive decision because it gave me more freedom when creating my course schedule for this semester. On the flip side of graduating early, for students who may be taking very intense or demanding courses, taking a class during the intercession could allow them to lighten their load during the academic year while still staying on track with their degree. This could be especially helpful for people involved in majors requiring a lot of labs or fieldwork.
From my experience, one of the potential initial obstacles to adjusting to college is learning the best time management methods. Some students may struggle to balance clubs and sports with a full course load. Taking a course during one of the breaks can help ease this adjustment by taking some of the burden off of the student while they figure out how to navigate their schedule.
Summer and winter courses also allow students to raise their Grade Point Average. When you only have one or two classes to focus on, it is easier to dedicate more time and energy to the work and achieve a higher grade. If your grades slip during the school year, intersession courses might present a convenient opportunity to balance out your GPA. With fewer classes competing for your attention, you also may be more motivated to complete extra credit assignments.
Since the core requires students to take classes that may be outside of their comfort zone, online classes are beneficial since there are usually fewer students in the class and assignments are usually more self-paced. The online courses I have participated in still follow mandatory deadlines, but I could choose the times I was completing coursework rather than having a predetermined meeting time. It can also be very helpful to only focus on one course at a time when dealing with unfamiliar areas of study. You may also be more apt to regularly attend office hours when you only have one class.
Additionally, when you take an online course during the intercession, you aren’t confined to the limits of a classroom. Instead, you can study in the comfort of your own home while still enjoying the restful nature of a college break.
During the winter break, I took Psychopathology and Clinical Science (PSYC 2310). One of the online components of this course that made it memorable was that we utilized an interactive textbook. Instead of only completing written assignments, we supplemented this learning with simulations mimicking case studies and therapy sessions. That was a very engaging form of learning since we applied the methods and information we studied. One drawback of online learning is the inability to exercise the material in real-world scenarios, but this course proved it is possible.
I think that perhaps the COVID-19 pandemic may have scared some students away from opting to take online courses. Once the pandemic started to subside when I was in high school, I remember my friends and I were very eager to return to in-person school. After learning virtually for so long, everyone enthusiastically awaited benefiting from the collaborative environment that in-person learning brings. After taking two of Fairfield’s online intersession courses, I can confidently say that I still experienced valuable and engaging teaching while studying remotely. I also still participated in collaborative learning through virtual discussion posts and group projects.
Taking classes during the winter or summer session means having to be academically minded during a time that is usually characterized by relaxation or reprieve from the usual stressors of school. However, the next time you are met with the opportunity to consider an intersession course, consider the long-term advantages of putting in a little extra work during the summer or winter break.