Christina Amano Dolan, Contributing Writer
VCU is offering students the choice to enroll in various accelerated courses for the spring 2021 semester, for individuals who may be struggling with maintaining a full course load in a virtual learning environment.
The minimesters are being offered in three separate terms during the spring, with one term lasting for eight weeks and two lasting for five weeks. The first term began Monday and will be held until March 19. The second term will be held March 8 to May 5, and the final term will run March 29 to May 4.
Similar to condensed intersession courses, the minimester classes are designed to help students fulfill certain credit requirements within a shortened time frame.
“VCU is utilizing this as a pilot to gauge student interest in shorter term courses during the fall and spring semesters,” said university spokesperson Joanne Jensen in an email.
Based on the current number of courses offered, enrollment is full at 550 to 600 students, Jensen said.
Minimester classes are currently being offered from the School of Business, the College of Humanities and Sciences, and the School of the Arts. Academic departments have until Monday to add courses to the second and third minimester terms. Not all departments are participating in the minimesters.
“I think it is a great idea for VCU to offer this opportunity during this challenging time because not only are students struggling with education, but many students are suffering from family, financial and mental health problems,” said sophomore biology and chemistry major Ashley Zicafoose.
Among the instructors offering minimester classes, professor Joshua Eckhardt will be teaching an eight-week accelerated course on Shakespeare’s poems and publishers beginning in March.
“It’s pretty unique; I doubt that any other university is offering a class that introduces students to the hand-written and printed excerpts from Shakespeare’s poems,” Eckhardt said in an email.
Although shorter courses may offer a challenging workload for students, Eckhardt believes that his course will not be “terribly demanding.” He said the course will require at least three hours of asynchronous work outside of the three hours of Zoom class a week.
Other classes currently offered include Theatre Appreciation (THEA 291,) Critical Thinking About Moral Problems (PHIL 201) and Inquiry and Craft of Argument (UNIV 200).
THEA 291 is a workshop class limited to theatre majors that will involve performance and the study of theatre’s theory, literature and history. PHIL 201 will allow students to enhance and employ critical thinking skills to a wide range of topics involving moral philosophy, including issues such as abortion, animal rights and world hunger. UNIV 200 is a research and writing course that will allow students to practice critical analysis, investigate important issues and craft effective arguments.
Students generally struggle with a virtual learning environment and may have trouble returning after taking a semester off, according to VCU News.
By offering shortened classes, the university aims to offer options to those who have taken time off of school for mental health or other personal reasons.
Ashley Zicafoose, a sophomore double-majoring in biology and chemistry, believes that the introduction of minimesters will be a great help to students, as she believes the COVID-19 pandemic has “turned everyone’s world upside down.” She said the flexibility of minimesters shows the university is helping students when they need it the most.
“I think it is a great idea for VCU to offer this opportunity during this challenging time because not only are students struggling with education, but many students are suffering from family, financial and mental health problems,” Zicafoose said.
Zicafoose said she will “definitely sign up for a minimester this year,” as she has struggled to maintain her grades through remote learning. She said she will also recommend this opportunity to other students that she knows have fallen behind.
Registration is currently open for the two remaining minimesters. The deadline to register for classes in the second term is March 8, and the deadline for the third term is March 29. The last day to add or drop a class for the first term was Monday.
News Editor Katharine DeRosa contributed to this report.