Update: January Session 2022

Dear Colleagues:

I remain deeply impressed by all that you have given to our students this academic year: From your creative approaches in teaching labs and dance courses, to your tireless devotion in seminars and lectures as you engaged students on Zoom. When we asked for your help, you stepped strongly forward for the benefit of our students.

You also stepped forward as we tried a few experiments. In the fall we launched novel North Star Courses and Experiences to help better engage students living on campus, but who were taking remote courses. We offered short, in-person experiences focused on re-connecting with one another and our city. With minimal turnaround time, you stepped forward strongly with 34 different offerings that engaged over 1200 students

You also leaned into the idea of piloting a January Session. Our goal was to provide remote learning for students in January as a way to keep them engaged during the long break, as well as to provide them with an opportunity to lessen their course load for spring semester without encumbering additional tuition. Faculty redistributed their spring course loads as well. It was successful: Over 63 unique courses were offered and 1930 undergraduate students enrolled (37.8%). In a follow-up survey, we learned that most viewed the experience favorably, and some faculty received the added benefit of being able to devote more time to research and scholarly activities during the formal spring semester. 

While implementing both the North Star Courses and January Session were instructional experiments directly linked to the pandemic, we see value in determining if these innovations are equally valuable for our community over the long-term. To achieve this, however, requires more planning and investigation. I have asked the Faculty Senate to develop both a recommendation and a plan, with an eye toward a Senate vote and possible implementation in January 2023.  

Accompanying this process, for the upcoming academic year, we will launch another January Session experiment (with credit and non-credit courses) to collect more data. This time, without altering the 2021-22 academic calendar, I am asking our faculty to consider offering courses and experiences that could fit into this new January Session. Over the summer, please consider participating by thinking about potential courses or experiences that you might offer, adhering to the following guidelines:

  • Courses (transcriptable) or experiences (not-transcriptable) would start January 3, 2022, and conclude in January.
  • Offerings will be called North Star Courses (or Experiences if they have no credit attached). 
  • Offerings can be made for undergraduates, graduate or professional students. 
  • Credit bearing offerings must take into account that the spring semester officially begins on January 10. Creativity needs to be employed to make a course count for three credits. The attached templates (with approximate meeting times) offer examples of how this could be managed.
  • Effective pedagogy should drive decisions on the type of courses that could be offered. An intensive one- to three-week class may not be appropriate for all subjects.
  • We would expect the courses/experiences to comprise some fully remote or in-person offerings. However, courses/experiences that feature both in-person and remote components are welcomed. 
  • The courses/experiences would be included as part of the spring tuition for our students and would count toward the student's spring credits.
  • As with the January 2021 experiment, any faculty member's credit-bearing courses/experiences would be included as part of their spring semester course load, as arranged with their chairs and schools. 

I would like to note that this above approach was endorsed by the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.

No action will be needed on your part until fall semester, but I wanted to give you time over the summer to reflect and consider how you might participate in this revised version of our January Session. What topics might you want to consider? Is there a different way you may want to teach a traditional course? Do you have an idea for a short course that might introduce your field, or your research, to a new group of students? 

As questions and ideas emerge, please share them with your Dean and/or the Provost’s Office. The Faculty Senate has already raised the issue of how to manage course assignments for the spring semester if a faculty member opts to teach a one credit January Session course. We will collate all questions and then arrange an FAQ or live session to discuss issues prior to the start of the academic year.

Thank you again for all you do to make our student learning as strong as possible. This has been a challenging year. I am proud of our institution, your creativity, and our collective passion.

Please have a restful summer; I look forward to hearing about your ideas when you return in the fall.


Ben Vinson III
Provost and Executive Vice President