Welcome to the Holiday Season

Bozeman, Montana – Picture courtesy of Kristie Kirby

Each year around this time anxious college students exchange study groups, lectures, and exams for turkey, pumpkin pie, and football. While many schools build their campus calendar to accommodate days that traditionally show low attendance, what adjustments are made in the distance education classroom? How can students make sure that their travel plans do not affect their assignments or final grade?

Student Handbook and Catalog

Each college or university is required to publish a Student Handbook and Campus Catalog at minimum once per year. In each of these resources you should find a campus calendar that clearly identifies class start and end dates for each semester,  a final exam schedule (if applicable), and recognized campus holidays. This information should be referenced early and often or printed and posted in a visible place (such as the refrigerator). By reviewing the campus calendar you should have a good understanding of what days the university expects you to be in class (or have access to class) and what days it does not. If unforeseeable issues arise, then the instructor should be contacted to discuss possible accommodations on a case-by-case basis.

Communication with your Instructor

Were you unable to access your classroom from the airport? Or perhaps before you arrived at Aunt Suzie’s home in Bozeman, Montana you did not realize how slow the internet connection was. Nonetheless, any issues that arise should immediately be communicated with your instructor. In fact, you should notify your instructor of any changes in access to your classroom so he/she will know if you suddenly “vanish” from the classroom. For example, if you are scheduled to fly from Georgia to Aunt Suzie’s in Montana the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, email your instructor and let him/her know your travel plans. This small act of communication will provide your instructor with vital information that may be referenced later should an unforeseen issue arise.

The After Holiday Blues

How was your Turkey? Was it filling? Did Aunt Suzie make her famous yam and spam stuffing again? While we all enjoy the breaks provided during the holidays, the Monday after your time off may hit you like a Mack truck, but you need to get back into the grove and finish your classes strong. Now is also a good time to carefully review your current class grade and contact the instructor about (possibly) submitting any late or missing work? Remember those issues with the internet connection at Aunt Suzie’s? If you email your instructor beforehand, that communication may come in handy post-vacation when your internet access is improved and your assignments can be submitted. Instructors need to know what is going on/happening with their students; without notification beforehand what’s to say they do not think students are simply skipping class before the holiday?

Final Thought

During the holidays, remember your ABCs as they will provide you with a clear outline to balance your work and play schedule. While time spent with your family may be limited, you can always sneak away for an hour and post to your discussion board if you traveled before the designated college holiday started. Through organization, communication, and preparation, holidays can be enjoyed without sacrificing your education.

Ashley Benson is a distance education professional with five years of experience in the for-profit sector. She has worked coast-to-coast within the United States as an academic advisor, an adjunct teaching assistant and, most recently, a campus Registrar. Through formal education and industry experience, Ashley practices staying informed on the current events and changes within higher education and the students involved.

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