Looking at the possibilities for January term

There are many reasons why Guilford College stands out from other colleges.

One is Guilford’s J-Term pilot program, which allows students to take classes over winter break.

However, the program is set to expire in 2017, and there are questions as to whether or not Guilford will renew it.  The J-Term program was originally proposed as a three-year pilot and then extended two more years through J-Term 2017.

“The January Term Assessment Committee is developing a recommendation about whether January Term should continue past 2017 said Professor of Chemistry Rob Whitnell, who is overseeing the J-Term review. “We will report that recommendation to the president and faculty early next semester. The faculty may also forward a recommendation to the president, who will then decide.”

J-Term is essentially a condensed semester.

“This is a very unique opportunity for students to provide a learning experience that is significantly different from the regular semester,” said Professor of English Heather Hayton in an email interview. “I like the challenge of an intense three-week session and figuring out how to create an interactive, engaged learning format that is not classroom based.”

The J-Term period lasts three weeks, and most classes meet five days a week for about three to four hours a day. Many students use J-Term as an opportunity to catch up on classes, get ahead on credits or even to boost their GPAs.

Senior Marcus Williams took advantage of J-Term during his sophomore year.

“Generally speaking, a student may take one or two courses during a J-Term,” said Williams. “That is a light course load for students who are used to taking three, four or more classes at a time. I think Guilford has a J-Term because it provides another opportunity for students to go abroad at a great time and for students to catch up on credit hours and courses.”

Guilford offers a wide variety of opportunities during J-Term, from such classes  as Examining the Narratives of Israel and Palestine and The Social Construction of Whiteness in North Carolina to travel to India to study abroad.

Despite positive responses about J-Term, there are concerns.

“The drawback is (that) if January Term is not continually successful, then it could be discontinued,” said sophomore Caleb Anderson, traditional student representative on the Clerks Committee, which decides on curriculum revisions. “The issue rests on the shoulders of the College and the academic dean’s office to continue offering interesting courses, and to keep up enrollment within the program.”

Whitnell identifies other concerns.

“Long breaks between semesters may not be good for students who don’t participate; participation is low: currently about 15 percent of the student body participates in J-Term,” said Whitnell. “(There are also) concerns about whether a four-credit course in the three weeks of January Term can accomplish the same as a four-credit course at other times.”

If enrollment is up for the 2016 J-Term, then the program will likely continue. If enrollment falls, it may be disbanded.