A Guide to J-Term Semester at Gustavus Adolphus College


Gustavus is one of a small number of liberal arts colleges that has an interim January Term. During January Term, students enroll in one course, which may take the form of an on-campus course, a career exploration, a study away course, or a course offered by any approved college also offering interim coursework. The primary focus of this guide is on-campus courses . Please see the Gustavus Study Away website for information about J-Term courses taught away from campus.

The mission of J-Term, course approval process for JAN courses, and policies related to J-Term are listed in Appendix C2 of the Faculty Handbook (a.k.a. Yellow Pages), available online. This guide is not intended to replace information contained in the Faculty Handbook, which remains the official record of policies related to the academic program. Rather it is offered as a supplement to the Handbook, providing an informal and logistical orientation to J-Term for faculty, particularly first time J-Term instructors. 

The Mission of January Term
The mission of January Term is to provide faculty and students with a short academic term that offers capacity for intense focus. Faculty can leverage these unique J-Term qualities in developing courses and other learning opportunities that enrich and expand upon the College’s regular semester curricular offerings. The institutional mission of the College calls for balancing educational tradition with innovation; study within a general framework that is interdisciplinary and international in perspective; and preparation of students to lead lives of leadership and service. The goals of January Term are consistent with this larger institutional mission. JAN courses will provide opportunities for learning both on campus and off campus through: 

1. International and domestic study away courses 
2. Career exploration and vocational reflection 
3. Courses that may satisfy either general education or major requirements 
4. Independent studies and student/faculty collaborative research and creativity 
5. Institutional exchanges with other 4-1-4 colleges 
6. Special opportunities for students to continue their transition to college life and the greater expectations placed on adult learners.

Parsing the mission statement: J-Term courses offer faculty and students opportunities to take advantage of the unique qualities of an interim term. These include the opportunity to engage in an immersive experience and to engage in experiential learning (see below for further details). Under our new January Term (2021 onward), students will also be able to participate in distinctive, intensive experiences for their majors, minors or Challenge Curriculum requirements.

Course Criteria for J-Term Courses 
The criteria for J-Term course approval listed in the Faculty Handbook offer further indications of the intent for J-Term courses:

1. Approved JAN courses will engage students in ways that specifically capitalize on the unique opportunities provided by the 17- to 20-day interim schedule. The course proposal will describe activities that can be better accomplished when students have the opportunity to travel or to spend extended periods of time in the laboratory, the studio, the library, or in other places conducive to discovery and creativity.

2. All JAN one-credit courses will count toward the two full January Term course requirements for graduation and courses so designated may be used to fulfill major requirements for all students. For students entering in 2020 or later, four total JAN Term courses may be taken and used to fulfill graduation requirements, including major, and general education requirements.

3. Approved JAN courses may carry general education or major credit when the proposal demonstrates that the goals intended by the general education or major requirements are met, albeit in the shorter but more intensive period offered by January term.

The Curriculum Committee course proposal form should be used to proposed JAN Term courses that are not currently in the course catalog or nor already approved for the course catalog.. The form asks the instructor to describe the goals and objectives of the proposed course, and how it fulfills the major, Challenge curriculum or other requirements the course meets.

Parsing the course approval criteria: All courses offered in J-Term should capitalize on the unique opportunities offered by the immersive nature of a term in which faculty and students can focus on a single course. Please note that students are not permitted to take more than 1.25 units of credit during J-Term. If students are engaged in a Music Tour or other activity that occurs during J-Term and takes them away from campus, they may not simultaneously be registered for any other J-Term courses. January Term courses must meet five days a week for two hours per day at a minimum, and assign a course workload that totals at least 40 hours per week, including class time. Students entering in 2020, or later, may take one full-credit J-Term course each of their four years, if desired, although only two one-unit courses are required for each student to fulfill the J-Term requirement; courses may be used to fulfill major or Challenge Curriculum requirements as applicable. 

Opportunities and Challenges of the January Interim Experience 
While some students will enjoy the opportunity to engage in topics outside the regular course offerings and to explore interests outside of their major, others will find J-Term a useful semester in which to dive deeply into a course for their major, minor or the Challenge Curriculum. The J-Term immersive format is well suited to activities that don’t easily fit into the typical 50-minute class period, such as historical simulations, rehearsals, film viewings, major laboratory research projects and field-trips. 

Teaching a J-Term course also presents a number of potential challenges. Instructors, especially non- tenure-track faculty, are often teaching the course on top of a full course load during the fall and spring semesters. Furthermore, the immersive and experiential dimensions of the interim experience call for a course that is designed differently from the traditional course, in terms of methods; many have not had past experience with this type of course since it is not offered at most institutions. Student expectations can also present a challenge. Some students may have no previous experience with a course is truly immersive, while others may relish the opportunity to be fully immersed within the course topic. Attending a Teachers Talking lunch focused on teaching J-Term courses, and comparing notes and syllabi with other faculty who have taught J-Term courses can be useful ways to prepare for teaching a J-Term course. Each Department should discuss its full slate of J-Term offerings as a group to make sure that curricular goals are being met and teaching assignments are being distributed fairly. Ordinarily, J-Term teaching must be within a faculty member’s contracted load. For staff who have the proper credentials to teach in J-Term, the teaching work must be approved by the staff member’s supervisor and the work should ordinarily fall within their job description and slate of compensated duties. Within-department conversations also present a good opportunity to share ideas for pedagogy. 

Examples of Interim Courses: Focus on Experiential Learning
Experiential learning has been defined by David Kolb (Kolb, D. 1984. Experiential Learning. Prentice Hall. Englewood Cliffs, NJ.) as “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.”[1] It is learning by reflection on doing. In experiential learning, students apply prior knowledge to the learning experience, and integrate the experience into their knowledge base. Experiential learning encompasses a broad variety of activities. Below are a few examples of J-term courses taught in 2019. Browsing the list of J-Term courses in Gustavus’ WebAdvisor portal will allow you to see all course offerings and see examples of past courses in your discipline, although pre-2020, most J-Term courses were not offered to fulfill major or general education requirements so there are many new possibilities for kinds of course offerings that are now possible.

Creative/performance: 

  • ART-220 Intro to Graphic Design 
  • MCS-106 Tabletop Game Design (Board game design)
  • MUS-105 U.S. Pop Music 
  • T/D-237 Costume Construction: hands-on costume building and alterations for the January production

Project-based learning and field-trips: 

  • HIS-209 Native U.S. History
  • POL-115 Minnesota Politics and Government
  • Introductory Majors course with lab
  • CHE-108: Chemical Thermodynamics and Equilibrium 

Lab research:

  • BIO-128: Intro to Biomolecular Research 

Career and vocational exploration: 

  • NDL-104 Army Leadership (ROTC)
  • NDL-105 Design Your Future 

Digital humanities: 

  • COM-110 Asian Media Representation 
  • S/A-104 Digital Worlds 

Study away: 

  • ART-113 Renaissance Art & Architecture of Italy
  • BIO-125 Conservation Biology in Tanzania
  • GEG-152 Iceland Culture and Landscape
  • HES-242 Olympic Quest: Australia and Japan
  • JPN-145 January in Japan 

Other types of experiential learning: 

  • BIO 107 Domestication and Why You Love Your Dog(s)
  • EDU-268 Orientation to Teaching: students serve as a teaching assistant in a school
  • NDL- 107 Museums Matter: Introduction to Natural History, Curation Techniques 

Potential Goals and Learning Outcomes for a J-Term Course 

The list below includes a set of goals and accompanying student learning outcomes related to experiential learning developed by a working group of Gustavus faculty. These goals and outcomes have been written primarily with on-campus J-Term courses in mind. Each learning outcome is accompanied by possible assessment methods. These learning outcomes are included as an optional resource for possible incorporation into the design and syllabus of a J-Term course. The intent is to provide a menu of options from which the instructor may choose outcomes that are most appropriate to the course. They are not intended to be prescriptive. 

Goal 1. In a J-Term course, students expand and challenge their understanding of a topic through direct experiential engagement. 

Specific learning outcomes 

1. Students will describe connections between experience and academic knowledge.


2. Students will analyze factors that contribute to real-world issues or situations.

Possible assessment methods 

Class discussion; essay/paper; reflective journal; assessment by external evaluators (e.g. community members, alumni) who evaluate student discussions or presentations. 

Class discussion or presentation; research paper; reflective journal or paper; assessment by external evaluators (see above). 

3. Students will articulate how they learn through experience and the impact that experiential learning activities have had on their relationship to the world in which they live. Essay; reflective journal or paper; oral interview, presentation, or question and answer. 
4. Students will describe how experiential learning impacted their understanding of a topic.

Assessment of knowledge, skills, and attitudes in relation to a topic (e.g. homelessness) before and after a learning experience using the same instrument. For experiential learning, growth rather than attainment is usually the focus of assessment; knowledge survey. 

Goal 2. In a J-Term course, students engage with learning experiences in a way such that they encounter ambiguity, practice curiosity, experiment, and assume responsibility for their own learning.

Specific learning outcomes  Possible assessment methods 
5. Students will successfully manage uncertainty by developing and testing hypotheses. Coursework; portfolio; work log documenting multiple iterations of work; direct observation by instructor of student work. 
6. Students will identify and independently research topics of interest to them and related to the learning experience. Brainstorming chart; research activity log; concept map. 
7. Students will define a problem and identify strategies for solving the problem. Written or oral proposal; discussion with faculty, peers, or community partners. Project outcomes, such as written summaries, demonstrated success at working with community partners, or tangible solutions produced. 
8. Students will articulate weaknesses and strengths of approaches they have used in problem-solving and identify evidence-based next steps to modify the process. Structured checkpoint self-assessment; work log documenting experimental design, results, and changes made in subsequent stage of project. 
9. Students will describe the ways in which ambiguity and the capacity to work within it contributed to their evolving understanding of an issue or topic. Budner’s Tolerance of Ambiguity Scale. Interview; journal; essay. 

Goal 3: Students will take prior knowledge and synthesize and apply it to the J-Term experience, and likewise integrate their J-Term experience into their overall understanding of a particular topic. 

Specific learning outcomes  Possible assessment methods 
10. Students will demonstrate synthesis and application of prior knowledge. Self-assessment of what prior knowledge was called into service, and in what ways it was applied. 
11. Students will demonstrate an ability to apply theory to describe an environment. Reflective journal; field journal (e.g., ethnographic, scientific); interview, class discussion. 
12. Students will demonstrate knowledge and skills to work in diverse populations as well as cultural self-awareness and empathy gained through their experiential learning. Reflective journal; field journal; observation of student interaction with community partners or assessment by community partner. 

Practical Information Related to J-Term Courses 

  • Course proposal forms and submission deadlines for J-Term courses not already in the Course catalog can be found at on the Curriculum Committee website. Department chairs will submit the J-Term Course schedule for their departments and faculty using the same process as for the Fall and Spring schedule submissions. Therefore, courses that are already in the catalog but which will be offered in January Term in intensive fashion, need simply be submitted for the schedule by the relevant department chair. The Director of January Term will review the proposed January Term schedule and contract Department Chairs and Program Directors if there are questions or concerns related to the schedule.
  • J-Term courses must meet 40 hours total during January Term. Instructors can choose the class meeting time(s), but must avoid scheduling class during daily Sabbath (10:00-10:20 a.m.) and the common meeting time (Friday, 2:30-4:30 p.m.). 
  • Funding to support J-Term courses (e.g., for van rental for field trips) is primarily available through academic departments. The Office of the Provost has limited additional funding available. Please contact Director of January Term to request a small amount of funding for your course (<$250) or to request charging students a fee for the course. 
  • Any travel that is part of an on-campus J-Term course requires the trip leader (in this case the faculty member) to submit a trip itinerary and master contact travel form prior to the trip. For details and link to form, see the Provost's Office website.
  • Faculty interested in leading a domestic or international J-Term study away course can find out about relevant policies, proposal deadlines and study-away specific learning outcomes at: https://gustavus.edu/cice/facultyandstaff/jtermopportunities.php
  • For details of January Career Exploration, see https://gustavus.edu/jterm/contents/career/

Faculty Handbook Overview of January-Term

Appendix C2: Requirements and Criteria for Courses Satisfying January Term (JAN)
1.1 Mission
The mission of the January Term interim period (JAN) is to provide ways for faculty and students to take advantage of this short term’s unique qualities in developing courses and other learning opportunities that enrich and expand upon the College’s regular semester curricular offerings. The institutional mission of the College calls for balancing educational tradition with innovation; study within a general framework that is interdisciplinary and international in perspective; and preparation of students to lead lives of leadership and service. The goals of January Term are consistent with this larger institutional mission. JAN will provide opportunities for learning both on campus and off campus through: 
1. International and domestic study away courses 
2. Career exploration and vocational reflection 
3. Courses that may satisfy either general education or major requirements
4. Independent studies and student/faculty collaborative research and creativity 
5. Institutional exchanges with other 4-1-4 colleges 
6. Special opportunities for students to continue their transition to college life and the greater expectations placed on adult learners 
1.2 Course Approval 
All JAN courses must meet the following criteria: 
1. Approved JAN courses will engage students in ways that specifically capitalize on the unique opportunities provided by the 17- to 20-day interim schedule. The course proposal will describe activities that can be better accomplished when students have the opportunity to travel or to spend extended periods of time in the laboratory, the studio, the library, or in other places conducive to discovery and creativity. 
2. All JAN one-credit courses will count toward the two full January Term interim period course requirements for graduation. 
3. Approved JAN courses may carry general education or major credit when the proposal demonstrates that the goals intended by the general education or major requirements are met, albeit in the shorter but more intensive period offered by January term. 
1.3 JAN Policies 
1. JAN Course Numbers: JAN courses will be designated by departmental, NDL, IDS, or JAN designation. Level I courses are entry level and are suitable for all students. Level II courses are generally accessible by all students but may require specific background. Level III courses are for the more advanced student. 
2. JAN Instructors: Because of the unique nature of JAN courses, staff and administrative employees who are not regular Gustavus faculty and who are properly credentialed may propose to teach a JAN course (or team-teach a course with a faculty instructor). All courses will be subject to normal faculty course approval processes, regardless of the employment status of the instructor. When staff members whose job descriptions do not include teaching offer noncredit courses in January term, it should be with the approval of their supervisor and division head/VP, with consideration of whether the staff member could perform their normal duties and have the time to assume the instructional role. The teaching should neither be an extra task for additional compensation, nor should it be volunteer work above and beyond the normal work hours of the staff member.
3. JAN Credit: Satisfactory participation is required in two full January interim terms (grade of P, or for courses with a letter grade, an A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, or F). A student will only receive JAN credit if they pass the course. If a student takes courses for more than two full interim term courses, credit-bearing courses may count toward the graduation course total and may satisfy major or general education requirements. 
4. Major/Area Credit: Any JAN term course approved to fulfill a major or a general education area requirement cannot be taken on a pass/fail basis. Such courses should not represent the sole method that students have available to them to satisfy a given major/area requirement (exceptions to this policy will only be made with the approval of the Curriculum Committee and for compelling reasons which must be stated in detail). 
5. First-year students: First-year students are strongly encouraged to enroll in a JAN course. First-year students may apply for any of the January off-campus study courses offered through the Center for International and Cultural Education. First-year students may not take Career Explorations and Independent Studies. 
6. Grades: Grades not calculated in the grade-point average are: P (pass), I (incomplete), W (withdrawal). A student may withdraw from a JAN course any time prior to the end of the third day without having their course participation recorded on the transcript. Withdrawals after this time will be recorded as a “W.” In courses with a grading option, students will select (with their instructor) their option by the end of the third day of the interim term (the drop-add deadline). A student may not withdraw from a month-long course after the third week of the interim term. Courses for which a student is registered after this time will receive a final grade. Non-Gustavus interim term courses accepted in transfer shall not be calculated in the grade-point average. Gustavus JAN letter grades, including failing (“F”) grades, are included in the grade-point average calculation. 
7. Cancellation: Courses may be subject to cancellation if they enroll five or fewer students per faculty member teaching the course. 
8. Participation: Students on academic probation are not permitted to participate in internship, career exploration, study abroad programs, or off-campus JAN courses. Students who register for such programs and courses accept the financial risks associated with being barred from participation, should they be on academic probation or suspended when the term begins. These financial risks include, but are not limited to, unrecoverable deposits, fares, reservations, and pro-rated group travel costs. The College reserves the right with 24-hour notification to suspend students if their academic performance is regarded as undesirable during the semester in which they are on academic probation. Students on disciplinary probation are not permitted to participate in internship, career exploration, or study abroad programs, or off-campus JAN courses. Students who register in such programs and courses accept the financial risks associated with being barred from participation, should they be on disciplinary probation or suspended when the term begins. These financial risks include, but are not limited to, unrecoverable deposits, fares, reservations, and pro-rated group travel costs. The College reserves the right to remove a student on disciplinary probation from a course or program if it deems such action to be in the best interest of the student, the College, or the program/course. Parents of dependent students are notified when a student is placed on Disciplinary Probation. 
9. Registration: JAN course registration follows the same procedure as regular registration (i.e., priority by class year), with exceptions: first-year students register first, followed by sophomores, juniors, and then seniors. 
10. Overloads: Students may enroll in a maximum of 1.25 courses during the January interim term. (All one-credit January term courses are expected to fully engage students, and the expectation is that faculty assign a course workload that totals at least 40 hours per week, including class time.) Fractional courses beyond 1.0 may not be used to reduce the requirements that each student be enrolled for a normal one-course load in at least two interims. A pro-rated overload fee will be added to a student’s account. 
11. Course by Arrangement: Only JAN approved courses may be offered as a Course by Arrangement during the interim term. If a major or minor program requires a thesis or project, that requirement may be fulfilled in Interim term. 
12. Independent Study: Independent study courses can be counted as fulfilling a JAN requirement, and may count toward the 34 semester courses required for graduation. If a major or minor program requires an independent study, that requirement may be fulfilled in Interim term. 
13. Travel Courses: International or domestic off-campus study courses will be counted as fulfilling a JAN requirement, and may count for major or general education credit, if approval is granted, in advance, by the Curriculum Committee. 
14. January term exchange with St. Olaf: Students who would like to attend St. Olaf College, another 4-1-4 college, during Interim term may do so. A student who is on academic or disciplinary probation will not be eligible. For a complete list of current 4-1-4 colleges, see the Provost’s Office. Contact the Provost’s Office for transfer policies and procedures. 
15. St. Olaf Students Visiting Gustavus During Interim Term: Contact the Provost’s Office for transfer policies and procedures.