Juniors and seniors again show up big for winter session

Two weeks from the start of Iowa State's second winter session, 1,878 undergraduates are enrolled in one of the 54 online courses being offered. Approximately 80% of them are juniors or seniors, said Ann Marie VanDerZanden, associate provost for academic programs who, with College of Liberal Arts and Sciences dean Beate Schmittmann, co-chairs the winter session executive planning committee.

"We knew students had more things going on this winter -- travel opportunities, for example -- that might make a winter session less interesting to them, so these numbers are fantastic," said VanDerZanden.

Last winter's pilot, a five-week session, enrolled 2,100 students, but she noted there were greater limitations for holidays, internships and vacations at that pre-vaccination point in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because this is year two of the pilot, one goal was to maintain consistency in the parameters -- eligibility, number of courses offered, number of credits permitted, etc. -- to be able to make year-over-year comparisons as the model is tweaked and improved, she said.

Courses are filling

Taking their lead from last winter's enrollment data -- more than 70% enrolled then were upperclassmen -- colleges offered more courses this winter for juniors and seniors. About half of this winter's courses are 300-level or 400-level classes.

Since winter course registration opened Oct. 20, 14 courses have filled and another six have single-digit seats available. Four courses were dropped in late November due to low enrollments, giving those students time to register for another course if they chose. VanDerZanden said they're watching a few other courses with low enrollments that might be dropped before Dec. 20, the first day of winter session.

Winter session concludes with final exams on Friday, Jan. 14. Since Gov. Kim Reynolds declared Dec. 23 an additional paid holiday for state employees, four university holidays now fall during winter session: Dec. 23, 24, 27 and 31. The reality is that a condensed, four-week term doesn't provide much wiggle room for days off.

"We know that to achieve an adequate amount of time and effort, winter session will require our students to be working weekends and holidays," VanDerZanden said.

Student services units across campus will remain open over winter break, except for the four holidays. Hours of operation and service mode (in person or virtual) may vary. VanDerZanden said staff in the Academic Success Center are contacting all students enrolled in winter session prior to Dec. 20 to make them aware of available support resources.

The provost's office and Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning led an optional session for winter instructors Nov. 29. It featured a panel of instructors who taught during the first winter pilot and offered guidance and practical advice for helping students succeed in the accelerated learning window.