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52 students taking Economics 1201 in Winter Session 2012 did just that.  Professor’s Harmon’s Online Principles of Microeconomics continued to be an attractive draw in the University’s ever-growing portfolio of Winter Term Online Courses.  First offered in Winter Term 2010, Harmon’s course drew 29 students and the same number in 2011.  This Winter Intersession, though, enrollment increased by 80%.  The jump may have been related to the recent UConn Today Article 11/16/2011, describing how mobile devices, Facebook, and Twitter are incorporated in the course. 

The course is offered entirely online and condenses an entire semester’s material into an 18-day period, beginning shortly after Christmas, and ending just before Spring term begins.  (See “Boot Camp Economics,” UConn Econ Blog , 4/19/2010, for a description.) The course has 2 proctored exams, and students can elect to take the exams at the Storrs Campus Homer Library or at alternate more conveniently located certified proctoring center.  This winter term 14 students (27%) took their exams at alternate off-campus proctoring centers.  Two of the students took their exams in locations far from Connecticut:  France, and China. 

Bern Dibner took his final exam in Paris, France.  He writes, “I am a dual major in Mechanical Engineering and German Studies and am in my final semester (10th) at UConn. This results in the requirement to take many classes including intersession classes. As a dual degree student, I have to fill the general education requirements of both the College of Liberal Arts and Science and the School of Engineering, which is my general reason for taking the class. I choose this class specifically among those which would fill the requirement, because I thought it would be an interesting departure from my normal course work and useful for my general education. I spent a year abroad in Stuttgart, Germany studying and doing an internship Daimler AG and my trip to France this winter was to visit friends I met in Germany, and, more concretely, to follow-up potential job opportunities in France and Germany after college.  Being able to take a course while away from Storrs is extremely advantageous, especially considering the limited offerings of the Storrs community, particularly when school is not in normal session.  More   importantly, online classes such as this allow students like myself to graduate on time while attempting more ambitious academic programs. I wish I could have taken more intersession courses as I am going to have to take 21 credits this Spring to graduate.”  Another student took the final exam in Chaozhou, Guangdong Province China.  She is a freshman majoring in accounting and visited her parents during the winter break. 

Winter Intersession online courses are increasing popular at Uconn.  University statistics show a steep acceleration in growth since 2010.  In 2010 the online enrollment was 102 students, in 2011 it grew by 70% to 173, and in 2012 it grew by 115% to 371.  Enrollments in the traditional face-to-face class have not increased as quickly, and the share of online enrollment in total winter intersession enrollment has risen from 20% in 2010 to 58% in 2012.

Here are pictures of the alternate proctoring centers in France and China:

(Left) American Library in Paris, France. (Right) Ceramics School in Chaozhou, China.


How did you spend your winter break? For most students it did not include more course work! But for 1,152 UConn students it was an opportunity to take an intensive two-week Winter Intersession course. Five of the 55 Winter 2010 classes offered at the Storrs campus were online courses. Classes began December 28, 2009 and ended January 15, 2010–only 19 calendar days for a course that usually spans a 15-week semester. One of the online courses was Econ 1201, Principles of Microeconomics, taught by Prof. Oskar Harmon. Students taking the course signed up for 16 days of online lectures, homework, and exams, with two days off for New Year’s Eve and Day, and one day to prepare for a proctored cumulative 2-hour final exam.

Some students apparently had second thoughts about spending their entire winter break immersed in economics: only 30 of the 45 students who initially signed up for the course remained enrolled when the class began. Two of the four course exams were proctored. Most students sat for the proctored exams in the Center for Undergraduate Education (CUE) building at Storrs, but some took the exams at other campuses (UConn-Stamford, University of Rochester, and University of Maryland).

Twenty-seven students completed the course, and the average score on the cumulative final exam differed by only one point from the average final exam score in the same course taught by Professor Harmon in the regular Fall 2009 term. Students in the two courses had similar self-reported GPAs and a similar distribution of majors, but students in the winter course typically were closer to graduation: about 40% were seniors compared to only about 20% in the fall course. Also a much larger percentage of students were not working during the winter course (45%) than during the fall course (20%). In an exit poll, students were asked: “Knowing what you know now, would you recommend a similar intensive online course to a friend?” and “Can you describe the experience of taking a 16-week course in a 2-week term?” About 25% of the respondents would definitely take a similar course and consistently described the experience as “intense, but a good use of my time.” About 50% would possibly recommend this intersession course to a friend. Their descriptions of the experience ranged from: “Really hard; if you are not fully committed to this course you will not do well,” to “Very, very challenging. I put so much effort into doing well in the course and I was still struggling. A lot of information to tackle in 2 weeks.” And 25% would likely or definitely not recommend the course to a friend, describing the experience as: “Not recommended, too compressed,” and “Econ is much too hard to learn over the Internet.”

An email from a student who completed the 2-week micro course and is now taking the companion 16-week macro course describes the experience as an “immersion” and notes that: “I feel like I’m slacking when I don’t pick up a macro book everyday, because my mindset from micro was all day every day.”