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Iris Jenkel

Iris Jenkel (Business Administration)

December 2008

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J-term online: another way to get ahead

Among this year’s January course offerings, St. Norbert students have two options for online learning, affording them the opportunity to study anytime and anywhere.

For the second consecutive year, the college is offering online courses during J-term, an intensive three-week study period between the fall and spring semesters during which students can take for-credit courses.

Iris Jenkel  (Business Administration) created St. Norbert’s first online J-term course, Fraud Examination, last year after teaching a well-received online internship course during the summer.

“I knew that today’s student learns well through technology,” Jenkel says. “I thought students might want to have an offering like that in January.”

And indeed they do, regardless of their situation during the winter break. Carrie Wagner ’10 took Jenkel’s course – her first during J-term – while home in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. The subject matter piqued her interest, and the flexibility sealed the deal.

“I was intrigued about fraud because this issue is a growing problem in the business world today and is connected with the field I may someday pursue,” says Wagner, an accounting major considering an auditing career. With the online format, she was able to study a topic not covered in a classroom-based course while working part time in her hometown.

Commuter student Michael Winter ’10, who also took last year’s course, appreciates both the elimination of his usual driving time and the convenient chance to make a dent in the additional credit requirements he faces as an accounting major preparing for the CPA exam.

During the upcoming J-term, Jenkel again will offer Fraud Examination, while Phillip Beukema (Business Administration) will lead Entrepreneurship: New Venture Creation, in which students will draft a business plan.

Both courses come to students through Moodle, an interactive e-learning software platform. “It’s a vehicle to get the information to [students] and back to you,” Jenkel says.

Because the online courses do not involve lectures, professors give daily assignments and occasional quizzes to encourage steady engagement with the topic. “I usually spent three to four hours a day working on the material,” Wagner says, recognizing that some of that time replaced the hours she would have devoted to attending lectures for a typical class.

That amount of effort is not unusual. “To do three weeks, four credits, is pretty intense in or outside of class,” Jenkel says. “The workload is almost double for online classes because we have to force [students] to really work with this on their own.”

Winter, too, spent a few early-morning hours each day on coursework. He says he likely learned more than he would have in a classroom setting because, without a professor before him to distill information, he dug deeper into the textbook than he usually does.

“I don’t want students or parents to think this is an easy way to go. It takes the right kind of student to be committed and self-disciplined,” Jenkel says. But for those students – as for Winter – the format works well.

“It’s very flexible, not too easy or insanely difficult, and I got a lot out of taking the class,” he says.

This year, J-term will run Jan. 5-23. In addition to the two online course offerings, students from St. Norbert and other colleges can choose from 20 classes on campus or on location – one is in Sicily, Italy, and one in the Galapagos Islands. Topics offered run the gamut from poetry to politics, from new media to neuroscience.

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