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First Wintermester Well Received, Online Learning Added To Academic Calendar Through 2024

Ferris State University

Ferris State University’s inaugural offering of Wintermester classes has been deemed a success by instructors and administrators after 103 students participated in online coursework from Monday, Dec. 17 through Friday, Jan. 11.

A total of six sections were offered as Rachel Foulk, a College of Arts, Sciences and Education associate professor of Humanities, had two student groups taking Introduction to Popular Culture in the new format. Ferris’ executive director of Online Education Amy Greene said that Extended and International Operations staff collaborated with the instructors who led the first Wintermester classes.

“Our online design consultants offered support services to help faculty re-design their courses, to best fit the four-week online format,” Greene said. “Technology coordinators worked with the instructors to help select tools so students could stay connected during times when the university was closed. They also provided 100 percent of the technology support for students and faculty for the duration of these courses.”

Steve Hundersmarck, an associate professor of Criminal Justice in the College of Education and Human Services, taught a required course from the program’s curriculum, CRIM 305, Ethical Issues in Criminal Justice. Hundersmarck said for some of the Wintermester students; this was selected as an elective which presented a diverse mix of students.

“I feel that we went over a considerable amount of material,” Hundersmarck said. “A key to our success, as a class, was advance communication about the amount of reading that students would be assigned."

Hundersmarck said he was thankful for the assistance offered by Tracy Russo, an EIO online design consultant.

“We used an mp3 format, with PowerPoint slides to present lecture material,” Hundersmarck said. “They had the freedom to review these at any time they chose, with the PowerPoint slides available to augment the lecture content.”

Hundersmarck also provided discussion boards, which allowed for an expanded review of class topics.

Foulk, who taught the Humanities 240 sections, agreed that she, along with her Wintermester students, were required to give continuous attention to the calendar so that they could progress through the material and make the learning successful.

“It became clear that we would each have something to see, or consider each day, and be prepared to offer a response of some kind,” Foulk said. “Students were asked to be prepared with an appropriate response to the coursework every two to three days. Similarly, I found myself on a similar schedule for review and response of their work so that I could be sure they grew in their understanding throughout the course.”

Foulk said that as she looked back at the two sections, she could see considerable benefits that resulted from Wintermester instruction.

“It allowed a couple of those students in the class to meet a final requirement for graduation from Ferris, without having to extend their studies for another semester,” Foulk said. “Others had expressed a need to improve their grade point averages, and they were successful in that effort, thanks to this format.”

Greene said that Wintermester will continue to be offered between fall and spring semesters, with the five-year program extension to assure that the program is sustained through early 2024.

“Our students were given a follow-up survey, and 87.5 percent said they had either a good or excellent experience,” Greene said. “Seventy-seven-and-a half percent said they would take another class during Wintermester sessions in the future. The goal for our next offering is to expand the number of general education and elective courses.”

PHOTO CAPTION: The first Wintermester session of online classes at Ferris State University was offered in that period between the 2018 Fall and 2019 Winter semesters, with 103 students taking part in six class sections. The office of Extended and International Operations provided technical support to faculty members, who presented their coursework in a condensed, four-week format.