December 22, 2012

Intercession For Intersession Class Success

As I am writing this blog, it is December 19, 2012. That is important because this could be posted several days from now—what can I say, I write A LOT! The topic of this post deals with what I am doing this week, which is teaching an intersession class. For those who don’t know, intersession classes are fast-track courses that take place in between major semesters.  These can be anywhere from one, two, or three credit-hour courses. They cover the same material in a course that a regular semester would cover, only in less time.

For instance, I am teaching Introduction to Literature, which is a three-hour course, this week. The class meets from 8:00am-5:00pm every day from Monday, December 17, through to Friday, December 21. It is intense, to say the least.

On the one hand, intersession classes are great. These force student participation and attendance because missing one day is the equivalent to missing three weeks of a regular, sixteen-week semester. A student simply cannot catch up from that. So that means that students attend every class, every day, which means as long as they turn in their work, they are going to pass. And most pass handsomely.

Intersession classes can be way fun, too. At the worst, you have five days with your classmates and professor, so what do you have to lose? They are further great because in five days, a student can receive three credit hours. I mean, come on! That’s awesome.

However, they are consuming. For the entire week, students are either in class, reading to prep for the next day’s class, or working on their written assignments. As I said, these students do everything that a student in a sixteen-week course does in just five days. On several assignments, the students have through the weekend to turn them in, but come Sunday, all their assignments must be submitted, the class discussions and work are completed, and I am furiously grading.  They can be brutal in these respects.

I took intersession classes as a student in many formats. I took five-day courses, two-week classes, and even a one-hour course that took place over three days. I really enjoyed that intensity. I also did not have any other responsibilities. I did not have a partner or children. I did not have a job. University was my only priority and focus. I was the perfect candidate for this type of course.

Now, on the other end, I have taught intersession courses in several formats as well. Right now, it’s a five-day, eight-hour-a-day course. For students interested in learning in an intense environment like this, I have some advice—both as a former student and as a professor.

First, if you have a part-time or even a full-time job, take the time off that you will be in the intersession course. Though the class meets during the day, you will have homework of some type that you will have to complete during the evening. Trust me; taking off from work will greatly increase your intersession class experience. Plus, it also will allow you to do better because you will be able to focus on just the course thus you will earn a higher grade.

Along the same lines, if you have children and family responsibilities, find someone to help you out. See the previous paragraph to see why. And trust me on both work and family during intersession classes. You’ll thank me later.

Second, if your teacher sends out the course calendar or reading list ahead of time, start working and reading early. This will cut down on what you will have to complete in the evenings, which means you will have better focus and better success.

Third—and I think this applies to any class—talk to your professor if you’re struggling. We can’t read our students’ minds, so help us to help you.

Next, be on time. That’s all I have to say about that.

Finally, go to class, participate, read the book, and turn in your work. You can’t fail if you have a positive attitude and positive activity in the class.

Intersession classes work for certain students. They learn better in that atmosphere. If you are not someone who can handle pressure, perhaps sticking to regular, ol’ semesters is best for you. Regardless, though, heed my advice. It will definitely help you to succeed in intersession classes…and maybe even in regular semester classes, too. I am, after all, a professional in education! Wink. Wink. Nod. Nod.

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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