This week marks the debut of Virginia Tech’s residential winter session, with online and winter experience abroad studies already underway. Close to 1,100 students are pursuing studies in 79 courses offered in the university’s inaugural winter session created to help students get ahead, satisfy a requirement, explore new areas of interests, or for visiting students to experience Virginia Tech.

Winter session enrollment stands at 1,330, indicative of some students pursuing more than three credit hours during this session.

Enrollments across the four types of instructional deliveries include

  • Virtual campus, with 100 percent of the coursework offered online, which represents the largest enrollment area;
  • Blended, a combination of online and in-class work;
  • Winter experience, delivery of courses in alternative locations either internationally or domestically; and
  • In-residence, daily classes throughout the 12 to 15-day winter session term at the Blacksburg, Va., campus.

“I am very encouraged by the interest in this first winter session, as well as the breadth of the courses offered during the three-week session,” notes Wanda Hankins Dean, vice provost for enrollment management. “I continue to hear from academic departments who are planning now to offer courses for next year’s winter sessions..”

There are 32 virtual course offerings, including music appreciation, hospitality and tourism management, Africana studies, Spanish, sociology, urban affairs and planning, and women’s and gender studies.

Of the 79 courses being offered, seven of them are winter experience ones, giving students a chance to study abroad both in the United States and in international locations, including Senegal, Dominican Republic, London, Spain, and New Zealand.

Cindy Wood, associate professor in the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is currently leading a Senegal winter experience course. She says the winter session set the perfect stage for a study abroad experience — in particular freshman who were a primary target population for this course — as they could receive the full benefit of the immersion learning. “For students, winter session is an opportunity to get the benefit from intensive courses such as faculty-led study abroad programs without interfering with the traditional succession of courses.” Wood further adds, “Winter session seems particularly appropriate for study abroad since so much can be experienced in a 24/7 environment.”

The timing of the winter session launch proved to be a tremendous asset to Wood and her team developing this service-learning trip, with an emphasis on ‘high impact practices’, those which had great success in engaging and retaining new students, particularly freshmen.  “High-impact practices include experiential learning experiences and small groups,” shares Wood.  “We came up with our idea of service learning in Senegal as an opportunity to further engage our new students and perhaps spark an interest in international development.”

Upperclassmen are also taking advantage of the Senegal winter experience as a launching pad for capstone experiences and as undergraduate research projects based on the first-year experience framework.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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