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A record-breaking Winter Session | UDaily

At most universities, following the holiday break, students do not generally set foot in a lecture hall or laboratory until their spring semesters begin. But at the University of Delaware, in that short post-break/pre-spring window, Blue Hens have a rare opportunity to catch up — or pull ahead — on credits.

This is Winter Session, an increasingly popular avenue for meeting academic goals. Indeed, 2021 has seen record-breaking enrollment.

“We looked back as far as we could, and there have never been more than 10,000 students registered, but that is where we’re at now,”  said Amanda Steele-Middleton, University registrar. “I am so glad this option is available. UD is in a unique position to serve our students in this way.”

This year, more than 500 distinct courses — a record number — are being offered during the session, which began on Jan. 4 or 11, depending on whether students signed on to a four- or five-week format. All eight of UD’s colleges are participating, meaning courses span all disciplines and are accessible to both graduate and undergraduate students. While most classes are virtual given the restrictions of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, in-person options are available as well.

So… why would anyone opt to take courses between two regular semesters of, well, taking courses?

“We want as many students as possible to stay on track to graduate,” said Rodney Morrison, vice president for enrollment management. “That is really the goal.”

For some, this means using Winter Session to spread out a course load or tackle one or two especially difficult classes best managed on their own. Consider Gabby Pugliese, a sophomore who is double majoring in management and marketing. She is taking two Winter Session courses in order to lessen her load next semester and possibly make a study abroad trip more feasible in the future.

“When you have a large course load, you’re sometimes just trying to get the work done and completed to the best of your ability,” she said. “But this way, I am able to spend time better interpreting the information and I’ve become more interested in the material. I’m not just taking notes for the sake of a quiz; I’m actually enjoying it.”

For some students who are all caught up on coursework, Winter Session can be an opportunity to experiment.

“If they’re ahead in courses they need to graduate, students might use this option to consider a minor, a second minor, a second major, an internship or a research project,” Morrison said. “So getting ahead allows for more flexibility and opportunity.”

This has been the experience of Garrett Mobley, a sophomore who is double majoring in finance as well as financial planning and wealth management. This year marks his second time participating in Winter Session which, he said, “will possibly allow me to graduate early or, maybe, take classes my senior year that are just for fun — like, possibly, yoga. It is a great opportunity.”

Part of the reason enrollment is so high this year is that, given the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic during the fall semester, University leadership developed a policy allowing eligible students to “float” up to six credit hours to their Winter Session experience at no additional tuition cost. For those who have struggled in recent months with adjusting to online learning formats necessitated by the coronavirus, this option has proven especially useful, Morrison said.

As for the Winter Session courses themselves, Blue Hen participants like Pugliese attest: They are “just as engaging,” she said, as the regular semester classes she and her peers have come to expect from UD. (Between study sessions, she will regale you with factoids learned in her “Introduction to Marketing” class about all the ways big brand stores are tracking your purchases — and what they are doing with that data.) 

But this is not exactly a surprise.

“It is typical of the faculty here,” Morrison said. “They just step up.”

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