Five years after they were first introduced, The University of Southern Mississippi’s mini-session courses continue to be popular with both students and faculty members.
Providing greater flexibility in scheduling classes, mini-session courses include an accelerated learning situation in which students can focus intensively on course subject matter. Offered between semesters, the courses are in one or two week formats, with one-week sessions meeting daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Two-week sessions meet daily from 8 a.m. to noon, 1 - 5 p.m., or 6 - 10 p.m.
Since the first mini-session in 2006, more than 10,500 students have enrolled in the courses, with more than 1,000 enrolled in the 77 undergraduate and graduate courses offered in the January 2011 mini-session.
“Students can take a prerequisite needed for a course in the upcoming regular semester, or use a mini-session course to get ahead or catch up in their program of studies or to lighten the load for the regular semester,” said Southern Miss Associate Provost Dr. Bill Powell
“For faculty, mini-session courses provide the opportunity for them to develop innovative courses and to work with students in a concentrated teaching and learning context.”
Credit for mini-session courses is applied to the semester that follows. For example, the January mini-session is connected to the spring semester, and the August mini-session is connected to the fall semester. Credit hours taken during a mini-session also count as part of regular semester enrollment for federal and state financial aid programs.
Fully online courses are also available during mini-sessions. Depending upon the instructors’ preference, an online class may require a specific daily chat time. Mini-session courses may require assignments due after the final class meeting date throughout the semester.
Emily Ladner, a junior psychology major from Sandy Hook, Miss. registered for a stress management course in the January 2011 mini-session, offered through the Department of Community Health Science. It is her first mini-session course.
“I like the format,” she said. “It’s a great learning environment because you get more one-on-one time with the instructor, and you get to know your fellow students better. I’ll definitely take another one. ”
Her instructor, Susan Graham-Kresge, has taught a course in nearly every mini-session. She agrees with Ladner that the format is conducive to a rewarding experience for everyone involved.
“After just one week, they leave with three credit hours and stress management skills they can use the rest of their lives. They also have more time to get to know each other, and I’ve seen relationships develop that normally don’t happen in the regular semester.”
Graham-Kresge also appreciates the format from an instructor’s perspective. “You have a large block of time to work with so you can have more in-depth, quality discussions with the students,” she said. “Plus, they don’t have other classes during this time competing for their attention.”