Luther College Chips

J-term needs to be restructured

Elizabeth Bonin, Managing Editor

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“J-term play term,” they said. Maybe it’s just me, but the only “play term” I’ve ever had was when I was studying abroad, so I was not even on campus. January-term is advertised as a great time to only take one class, get a general education requirement out of the way, and relax between the more challenging fall and spring semesters. My J-Term experience has been more like scrambling to finish assignments while also sliding down to Regents for practice. Now I’m not saying that I hated my J-Term class. This year I took a film course and I absolutely loved watching movies and learning how to analyze the different elements of cinematography, editing, and mise-en-scène. Shout-out to Professor Row-Heyveld for teaching a fascinating class.

My problem with J-Term is that someone actually thought condensing a semester-long class into three and a half weeks was a good idea. Throughout our academic careers, we have been taught that the best way to learn and retain information is a little bit of that information over a longer period of time. Studying for a test two or three days in advance is supposedly better than the night before. If this is true, then cramming a semester’s worth of content into just a few weeks doesn’t seem like the best way to learn anything. How should students be expected to keep up with assignments, understand material, and recall information at such a fast pace? Even though J-Term classes are typically three hours long, I felt as if we hardly had time to cover the material we needed.

Most students on campus are either first-years who are required to spend their first J-Term on campus, musicians rehearsaling, or athletes who must stay for practices and meets. Even though I was only taking one class, I did actually find it difficult to balance practice and the work load for class. Again, this is because we were trying to complete a semester class in just a few weeks. I barely had time to keep up with the readings, reflections, and projects. Because of that fast-paced nature, I felt that I hardly had time to learn and understand one day’s content before we moved on to the next.

This is not to say that J-Term should be completely done away with. I think J-Term is a good experience for first-years and is a great time for students to choose to study abroad, complete an independent study or a directed reading. I do not have a great perfect solution, but I would suggest that the college consider making J-Term only required for first years and still offer independent studies, directed readings, and study-abroad programs. I understand that we need to learn a great deal during J-Term since the classes are typically semester-long. Perhaps the semester-long classes should stay at the semester length, and any J-Term classes should be crafted specifically for J-Term. If J-Term is supposed to be a time to slow down, it should actually be presented as such.

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