Catawba's "Experiment" in J Term Declared a Success
January 28, 2011
One hundred and sixteen students took online classes or traveled abroad during Catawba's winter term this year. Enrollment in the "J term," as the December-January time that coincides with Christmas break is known as on campus, doubled since it was initially offered in 2009-2010, and so did the courses offered during the period.
While the J term is not yet included on the college's academic calendar, the positive feedback on the two-year experiment from both students and faculty may soon change that. According to Catawba Provost Dr. Rick Stephens, the "J term" has been a very successful "experiment" for the college.
"Catawba's Faculty Senate had recommended consideration of a January term and the past two years has allowed us that," Stephens said. "We decided that classes offered would be either travel courses or online courses which would keep down costs and allow the campus to remain closed for the holiday break.
"This created an opportunity for a concentrated (three-week) period of study for students and some affordable travel opportunities for them," Stephens continued. "The J term allows a student to catch up if they need additional credits, to retake or do over a course, or to accelerate their course completion time. It is also an especially good time for travel, which is more difficult to schedule in during the normal semesters. The J term tuition is priced at the summer school rate ($900 for a three-hour credit class) and the students incur travel and program related costs (books, travel, meals)."
Courses offered during Catawba's J term are only available to Catawba College students and students may only take one three-hour course during this term.
Earning Three Credit Hours during J Term
Senior Julie Gilley of Dobson is one Catawba student who took an Elements of Fiction Writing class with Dr. Forrest Anderson during the recent J term. She had this to say about her course: "My J term experience was definitely worth the investment! The assignments were varied enough to keep me interest, but were never overwhelming so I wanted to pull my hair out. In truth, this was one of my favorite courses I've taken at Catawba because of the quick, personal feedback I received on my writing from Dr. Anderson."
Senior Dusti Kempf of Midland took a Hispanic Culture in Literature and Fiction course with Dr. Michael Wilson during the J term and she, like classmate Julie Gilley, had good experience. "I think the J term is a great idea," she explained. "It gives students an opportunity to pick up a class during breaks that can either help lighten their load during the regular semester or allow them to get through school more quickly. The J term is one of the reasons I am graduating after three years of college rather than four."
Professor Anderson, who taught Gilley's J term fiction writing class, reported that he was pleasantly surprised with both the quality and quantity of his students' work during the course. "Students in my class had assignments in the form of reading, writing, and responding due everyday of the week for three solid weeks," Anderson said. "Personally, I worried the amount of work I was requiring may have been too demanding. My students, however, consistently rose to the challenge in interesting and creative ways.
"I was truly amazed by the quality of fiction my students were producing, and I feel that each and every student surprised themselves at one point in the course with their ability as writers."
Ketner School of Business Professor Pam Thompson who taught a Management Information Systems course during J term echoed the sentiments Anderson expressed. "My students were required to interact with each other almost daily in discussions related to course content," she noted. "They had to experiment with new business software and social networking for business, while still gaining the body of knowledge important to the discipline from the text. All in all, I think it was a great learning experience and a wonderful way for them to pick up extra credit over break."
Travel Abroad during J Term to Bonaire and Japan
A trip to Bonaire was the culmination of a four credit cross-disciplinary science and humanities course that began in the fall semester with a one-credit Scuba Certification lab course led by Dive Specialist Joe Gaydeski of Open Water Adventures in Charlotte and his staff. Chemistry professor Dr. Mark Sabo enhanced the already rigorous study of the science of scuba with a science lab that complemented the pool and classroom scuba certification course. As travel to the Netherlands Antilles neared, Dr. Carl Girelli, associate provost and professor of English, prepared students with extensive online readings and discussion.
Girelli had this to say about the Bonaire experience: "It was an absolute pleasure to learn along with students about the science of scuba and to be their teacher as they explored the history and sociolinguistics of the Caribbean, particularly Bonaire and the Papiamento language spoken there."
Sabo, Girelli, and 20 students completed their scuba certification with open water dives along one of the top reef systems in the world, and many completed as many as 20 dives, including night diving amid schools of six-foot tarpon.
Dr. David Fish, chair of Catawba's Music Department and associate professor of music, traveled to Japan over the J term with 14 students enrolled in his Japanese Musical Theatre and Dance course. The group spent mornings in Japan in class and then spent afternoons enjoying the traditions they studied, including Kabuki and Noh at the Japanese National Theatre. They also were able to take part, Fish said, in a workshop by a pioneer of Butoh avante-garde modern dance.
"This was a wonderful experience for these students, some of whom had never flown before and others who had never been outside the United States," Fish explained. "They were particularly excited to see the Great Buddha in Kamakura that President Obama visited just months before."
Senior Claire Robinson of Houston, Texas, was among the students who traveled to Japan with Dr. Fish. "Going to Japan with a group of people from Catawba was one of the best ways to spend my winter break," Robinson said. "I got to eat delicious food, meet lots of really nice people from Japan and around the world, see fascinating performances of traditional Japanese art forms, and explore all around Tokyo.
"Japan is a wonderful country, and I've now decided to apply to the JET [Japanese Exchange and Teaching] program to teach English in rural Japan after graduation so I can see even more of the country."