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Who needs a vacation?

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Many college students use the time between the fall and spring semesters to catch up on relaxation or just spend time doing leisurely activities without worrying about assignments or tests. But then there are other students who for one reason or another decide to take winter courses, which at Husson University are offered online.

Professor Cornel Plebani teaches criminal justice at Husson University and is teaching criminology over the winter term online. He doesn't see as much of a difference between the physical classroom and the cyber classroom.

"Being in the classroom places the student in a vibrant learning space that can be challenging to recreate in cyber space. Well-designed, user-friendly course rooms such as those that can be constructed on Canvas (an interactive teaching website) minimize some of these challenges," Professor Plebani said.

He realizes that this type of coursework demands significant time management skills as well as personal discipline in regards to managing time effectively. He believes that online work can help develop the vital skill sets aforementioned. He believes that online courses can actually be very challenging academically due to the "highly independent nature of the content delivery."

Professor Plebani plans his syllabus for the winter term in the same way he does for a traditional course in the fall or spring semester and tries to structure the course so that workloads are as manageable as possible.

"The time frames for this course completion are greatly compressed in the January term, and that forces quick turn-around times for assignments. So I think the work level intensity is ideally the same, but the online student is forced to burn faster and hotter for shorter bursts.'

Professor Plebani's expectations for students do not differ too much between online and the classroom: "The virtual world is simply another type of learning environment that has all of the same pitfalls and challengers of any other. So high standards going in can alleviate some of the stress because students know what is expected of them and they can work accordingly."

Mitch Cosgrove is one of the students enrolled in Professor Plebani's criminology course during the winter term. He chose to take this course since it is required for his major, and he is very much interested in the criminal mind. He spends about three hours on each section that he works on and enjoys the online classroom.

"I feel as though the online classroom is better. I can look over everything accurately. If I take a look at my notes there is a chance I could have missed something. With the online class I can go back and receive accurate information that I might have missed."

Cosgrove enjoys being able to do his work at home. He doesn't have to drive to campus in horrible weather and is able to go at his own pace. The due dates are all set so he doesn't get behind on his work.

"The only negative thing I can say about this online course is trying to get in touch with the professor. Normally you can ask any question in the class room or go to their office, [but in this case] you have to email them. They might not get back to you until the next day.'

Cosgrove suggests to students that want to take a winter course to be serious about it.

"It moves really fast, so expect to learn a lot. Time management is key!'

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