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January Term Faculty Applaud Third Year

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More than 60 courses were offered during UNH’s third January term, up from the 27 taught during the first three-week semester, introduced in 2010. Held Jan. 3 through Jan. 23, the 2012 J-term allowed students to earn up to four credits during the compressed semester that took place during the traditional winter break.

While the majority of the classes were taught online, there were also some that required students to be on campus. Several gave students the opportunity to study abroad.

This is the second year that Kate Hanson, professor of community leadership at the Thompson School of Applied Science, taught “Introduction to Nonprofit Organizations” during the January semester.

“Although there is a great deal of material to cover in a very short time, the J-Term gives both the faculty and the students a chance to focus on one course. Even though there is very limited time, there is also this increased attention,” Hanson says.

While noting there are obvious differences between teaching online and in a classroom, and that online can be less personal, Hanson says her use of discussion boards, journals, and blogs helped her connect with students and get to know them in an individualized way.

Since 2009, online courses at UNH have filled to capacity or were near-full.  A sampling of subject areas offered during the 2012 J-term includes administration, chemistry, communication, community service learning, education, English, marketing, music, philosophy, political science, sociology, technology and theatre and dance.

Jennifer Armstrong, a senior lecturer in philosophy, taught a course called “Ecology and Values” during the January term. She has taught online courses before; this was her first J-term class.

“As much work as it required, it also gave me a better sense of what my individual students were thinking and how they were doing than I usually can get from more than a percentage of my ‘regular term’ students,” Armstrong says. “The interaction among the students was at a remarkably high level, and I was astounded to see everyone meet every deadline���and there were many-- throughout the bulk of the course.  J-term students are focused, self-motivated, and committed.”

Melvin Dubnick says his appreciation of his students has gone up several notches through teaching January term courses. The 2012 semester was the third for the political science professor, who taught a graduate level class.

Dubnick took advantage of Skype and was able to have up to 10 of the 12 students taking the class conference at a time. He also used Blackboard. During the three weeks, he says he and students had more than 700 posts.

“I really feel these online courses give me the chance to get to know my students much better,” Dubnick says, “It might not be the same if I were teaching a larger undergraduate class but with a graduate class this size, it works great.”

Dubnick says he was an advocate for online learning “from the get-go” and believes this third year shows the value of the technology.

“Everyone was more than comfortable right from the start,” he says. “These students expect this to be available. Even the older students���they see it in their jobs so they’re really comfortable, too.”