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Winter Term Course Sharing for Student Recovery and Success

We asked Sandra Via-Ellington, former Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies at Ferrum College, to provide her perspective on ways to leverage Acadeum course sharing as part of winter advising.


In my administrative roles at Ferrum College, I served as the primary Acadeum contact and the Home Institution/Teaching Institution administrator. Encouraging my students to take advantage of course sharing opportunities became one of the most rewarding parts of my job. My favorite part was helping students leverage courses shared through Acadeum to recover from a bad academic semester or find pathways to graduation.

From a course sharing perspective, winter is the most underutilized term for many institutions. Because some colleges and universities don’t offer a wide range of courses during winter term–or don’t offer a winter term at all–accessing courses from trusted Teaching Institutions can unlock the help students need. For certain populations, such as students who need to boost their GPA or are a few courses short of graduating in the spring, winter term can be a lifeline.

Academic Recovery 

At the end of each semester, there is a population of students who find that they are at risk of academic probation or suspension.  Whatever the reason for the student’s academic trouble, it is always the goal of the institution to help that student become successful and move forward.  

At Ferrum, I would begin preparing to help this population of students before they even received final grades in their courses. Actually, I began to prepare to help this group as soon as midterm grades came out. After midterms, I requested a list of students that received either D, U (Unsatisfactory), or F at midterm. I would use this information to identify courses that students would most likely need if they continued to perform poorly in their courses.  

Students who did not rally after the midterm and were placed on probation or suspension received information in their suspension letters about Acadeum, as well as my contact information. I, then, worked with students, in conjunction with their advisors, to get them enrolled in appropriate courses that would replace their fall course grade. Typically, students who were motivated to improve would welcome the opportunity to take a course through the Acadeum network because, unlike a transfer course, they knew it would replace the grade and boost their GPA.

Making It Across the Finish Line

During the fall, many registrar’s offices and advisors are busy doing degree audits to make sure junior and senior students are on track.  Those audits sometimes reveal that a student is one course shy of graduating on time or that they can graduate early if they take advantage of online courses available through partner schools. The winter term is a great time for students to complete those courses, without disrupting their traditional semester with an additional course or independent study.  

In anticipation of these scenarios, I’d start preparing shortly before the Thanksgiving break. I created two specific communications: one to students and one to faculty advisors and student support services.  

  • The communication to students typically spotlighted specific reasons to take winter term courses, including degree completion.  I timed this communication to come out shortly after juniors and seniors received their degree audit plan. 
  • My communication to faculty and staff offered reminders about the benefits of online courses through Acadeum: they’re affordable and easily accessible alternatives for students who need a course to meet their degree requirements.  

Making Winter Term Work for the Student and the Institution

There are many more reasons why winter term can be a valuable option for your students and institution.  The opportunity for a student to take a winter term course can be the difference between them returning to college in the spring or at all, which reduces the fall to spring melt, increases retention, saves money for students who want to graduate early or on time, and improves graduation rates–to name just a few benefits.

Acadeum’s Partner Success Team can help you explore these strategies and others for winter term. Please reach out to your dedicated Partner Success manager to assist in developing the best winter term strategies for your students and institution. 

If you wish to learn more about Acadeum and course sharing options, please contact us.

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