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UST Pioneers First Winter Session: Students Share Their Experiences

UST hosted a new mini semester of virtual course sessions during the 2020 winter break for students looking to complete course or schedule requirements.

Students who took part in these synchronous and asynchronous courses were expected to work and meet weekly course requirements from Saturday, Dec. 19 – Saturday, Jan. 16.  For some, the virtual learning modules and homework even extended through Christmas Day.

The Independent recently spoke to a few students who participated in the winter session.

Junior biology major Nikita Patel completed a general psychology course during the mini semester to fulfill a requirement for UST’s pre-med track.

“Out of all the core classes that I need, psychology was the only one the University was offering [during the break],” Patel said. 

Patel says the most challenging part of taking a course during the winter break was the last week of class, as it overlapped with the first week of the spring semester. 

“Towards the end I did feel a little bit burnt out,” Patel said.

“You don’t get a break from the fall semester since you go straight into the winter classes and because of that overlap, you are trying to finish your winter courses while starting your spring classes.”

Patel’s psychology course required the students to watch uploaded video lectures and complete course work during the week. Then, every Saturday students took an exam. At the end of the course, a final paper was due.

“It wasn’t a ‘breeze through’ class,” Patel said. “But the professor was always there for you, so her support was everything to me.”

Patel, a mother of two, said students who take these winter sessions should prioritize time management. 

“For me time management is everything, because I don’t want to be studying at a sacrifice of not being there for my kids,” Patel said, “so with all the work for this course, I was pacing myself, studying everyday, and because I was dedicated, it was manageable.” 

She said she is open to participating in future winter sessions.

“It also keeps you mentally in the rhythm of studying,” Patel said.

There were a limited number of mini session courses offered during the break. Some students, like senior biology major Udochukwu Ugwuoke, were hoping UST’s first winter mini session would offer a greater variety of required classes such as organic chemistry or biochemistry. 

“I decided to take another course, which ended up being American federal government, and it kept me busy for three weeks,” Ugwuoke said. Taking the course, however, satisfied his elective credit.

Unlike the University’s summer courses, winter break sessions directly affect the student’s GPA for the following semester, he noted. 

“I was under the illusion that the course was going to be under its own grading period, such as it is for the summer courses,” Ugwuoke said. 

“But it turned out that the winter mini session and the spring sessions are rolled into one GPA.”

Ugwuoke said because his American federal government class was asynchronous, it allowed him to study at his own pace.

Except for exams, “I was pretty much finished with most of the work within the first couple of days,” Ugwuoke said.
“If you can keep up with the work and the readings, I would recommend these courses to anyone,” he said. “It’s an easy grade.”

Junior biology major Franklin Pham took the Microsoft future accelerated skills training, during the mini semester, which he said showcased different ways of looking for a job through networking, and using FAST skills in the technology industry. 

“I took this course because I saw Microsoft and I like Microsoft, so I hoped I would get something out of it and I did,” Pham said. 

The course required student engagement through virtual, asynchronous learning modules and a few synchronous sessions through Zoom. The class did not have an exam.

“The professor only gave out homework and a final group project,” Pham said.

Pham said that the workload for his class was achievable for any full-time student, and noted that the majority of students in his session were adults with kids and jobs.

Patel, the pre-med biology major, recommends students take advantage of future mini sessions to get core requirements in and lessen the amount of classes they need to take during regular semesters.

“It is doable,” she said. “I mean, I really want to do what I’m doing, so where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

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