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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Pilot program brings NIU winter semester

Michael Mollsen
Two J-term courses sit in an NIU class shopping cart. NIU is offering courses during winter break, including classes like Introduction to FinTech and History of Science. (Michael Mollsen | Northern Star)

DeKALB – A pilot program that offers online classes during the winter break, a J-term, is making its way to NIU.

The first winter term classes, J-terms, courses that run through the first few weeks of Jan., will primarily offer general education courses the university believes will be in high demand, according to Interim Executive Vice President and Provost Laurie Elish-Piper. 

We’re looking at high enrollment classes, to make sure that they’re courses that lots of students need,” Elish-Piper said.”  “This will provide another avenue for students when they’re going to have a particularly challenging semester to take a class during another term to lighten that load.”

The winter term takes place after the fall semester in December and ends before the spring semester in January. Winter classes will be offered online at an accelerated rate to meet their shortened time frame.

NIU hopes to start this winter and see how many students sign up, how many complete the courses and get feedback from instructors, according to Elish-Piper.

The university will use the instructors’ feedback to determine what they felt was successful, what was not, and whether or not the courses work in the given timeframe.

“With that information, we will be able to determine what the model looks like moving forwards and implement those changes,” Elish-Piper said. “Primarily, we’re looking at three-credit hour courses.”

First-year mechatronics major Wesley Cederlund said he liked that courses would be online but still had mixed feelings about working over winter break. 

“It might interest me if I don’t get a class one semester,” Cederlund said. “It could work as a failsafe of sorts, but I’ll probably stay away from that and enjoy my breaks.”

Winter break means certain student resources are temporarily unavailable.

“We’ve worked with the deans to identify possible classes that would not rely heavily on things like tutoring or the writing center because of the timeframe,” Elish-Piper said. “The university will be closed during the winter break, and we wanted to make sure we were choosing courses which would not become an issue.”

If the pilot program is a success, the university will look to expand the winter term’s course offerings, Elish-Piper said. 

“We’ll be looking at enrollment when measuring the pilot’s success,” Elish-Piper said. “We will also look at whether or not students successfully completed these courses, their grades, input from the instructors and whether or not they felt the format and timeline works.”

Students who want to sign up for J-term courses may do so on NIU’s course registration website.

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