Winter session: Engineering students make the most of break

For the first time ever, Iowa State offered a winter session spanning from December 14, 2020, to January 21, 2021.

Iowa State’s winter session appealed to students for a variety of reasons. Whether it be to lighten their spring class load, fill their ample free time over break, or allow them to complete their class remotely, the session drew high student enrollment across campus.

Getting ahead

“I think the biggest benefit of this winter session is to get ahead and lighten students’ class loads in the future by getting a class done during this winter session. If students were a bit behind on their graduation track or wanted to just take one less class in the spring this was a great way to do it,” said Ally Aichinger, senior in industrial engineering and undergrad teaching assistant.

Aichinger is the undergraduate TA for IE 305: Engineering Economic Analysis, a popular elective for many engineering students and other undergrads from other colleges. It was one of three classes offered by the College of Engineering over the winter course. Others included CON E: Engineering Law and ME: Computer-Aided Design.

Flexibility

However, taking an intensive winter session over a break time came with some tradeoffs. A large portion of the session ran during the holidays. So, while many students weren’t gathering or traveling in traditional ways, there was an added aspect of having to juggle the course with holiday or family commitments.

With that in mind, the IE 305 course was designed to be flexible. Aichinger said the entire course allowed students to work at their own pace. Students read the text and watched all the pre-recorded lectures before completing their corresponding assignments.

This allowed students to complete the course at a pace and location fitting to them. Aichinger was also able to work as a TA while working from home.

Staying engaged

Aichinger said students had the option to communicate with course instructor Cameron MacKenzie, assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering, by email, Zoom or WebEx.

Aichinger mentioned another positive of the winter session was that it kept students in the school mindset over an extra long break period. Aichinger hopes it will help ease the transition as students gear up for a full semester ahead.