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Although no classes were offered during the first January intersession, the University plans to keep it in the calendar while the logistics of class offerings are worked out.

When the University changed the academic calendar preceding the 2019-2020 school year, it added a January “intersession,” or a four-week period where students can take online classes, practicum experiences or participate in internships.

Provost Jamie Hooyman said because the University is closed during part of the intersession period and courses will include non-contractual pay for faculty, the University did not feel prepared to offer any courses during the first intersession.

“We wanted to make sure we had all the logistics worked out,” Hooyman said. “If Canvas went down or there’s issues, we have to make sure that either students are aware that there’s no help during those times or we have avenues.”

Hooyman said the idea for a January intersession came from a task force dedicated to evaluating the old academic calendar and making changes to it.

The committee — comprised of faculty, staff, students and members of the provost’s council — presented lengthening winter break as an option to allow for four-week internships, practicum opportunities and classes to be offered as a supplement to the spring semester.

“It’s a perfect opportunity for those students who are highly motivated and just want to get an extra hour in,” Hooyman said. “Or perhaps those students who just need that extra boost to get their hours and graduate on time.”

While some courses like one-block summer courses are already formatted for an accelerated timeline, fitting a 15-week course into four weeks presents challenges. Hooyman said the number of courses available for the intersession will grow over time.

“What you have to be careful of is the academic integrity, because you’ve only got four weeks,” Hooyman said. “The rigor and the relevance of the course has to stay the same.”

Because Northwest has a trimester schedule structure, summer courses have a separate credit hour count from fall and spring semesters, but Hooyman said intersession courses have to be structured into an existing trimester, so they will be included in the spring semester.

Theoretically, Hooyman said, a student could take nine credit hours in the spring semester and take a three-credit-hour course in the intersession and have the 12 credit hours needed to be considered full-time.

A consideration for faculty is compensation for teaching outside of the established schedule. Hooyman said the established compensation plans for non-contractual work — like summer courses — will apply to faculty teaching intersession courses.

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