During the previous fall semester, staff and students alike were given the opportunity to utilize a week off from scheduled classes. This was known as a Blackout Week but is now being called a Catch-Up Week. The upcoming Catch-Up Week will take place during the week of February 22. Just like last semester it will not be mandated for professors. This time off will allow staff and students to take a mental break from the stress of balancing remote learning and personal lives, and to get caught up in their work.
Unfortunately, last semester, the optional time off did not have the positive results that were expected. After the Blackout Weeks, “faculty felt that students ‘lost momentum’ or ‘fell off the rails’…even though everyone also needed the time to catch up,” said Allison Cummings, Professor of English.
Several students have reported having a harder time getting back into a routine, while others were still strained with an overload of class work. “What professors see on screen is not even half of what is going on in someone’s life,” said Andrea McEvoy, ‘23.
Meanwhile, various students claim to have had a positive experience, such as Julia Brau, Vice President of the SNHU Psi Chi organization. “Last semester’s Blackout Week went well. I think it was a good opportunity to take some time to catch up on work, but also to take a break from obligations that require screen time. It’s good to be able to step away for a while to bounce back from Zoom fatigue,” said Brau.
Previously, first-year students were excluded from catch-up week due to the new Innovation Scholars program. Students in this program take their courses through SNHU’s Global Campus, an online environment with asynchronous lectures, which are classes that don’t have virtual meetings. “The Catch-Up Week doesn’t really apply for the Innovation scholars [because] they don’t have class meetings to begin with,” said Michael Evans, Vice President of Academic Affairs.
Some students, like Alison Bell, ‘24, have to deal with the demands of being a full-time student as well as a part-time employee. “As a student at SNHU, I feel as though all students should be able to benefit and relax with a Blackout Week, regardless of the year or major they belong to,” said Bell. “All I know is that a week to relax and recoup during a very stressful and scary time would be perfect.”
It has not gone unnoticed the Catch-Up Week is scheduled close to the annual spring break, which will take place between March 8th and 19th, a week after the end of the optional break week. Faculty are concerned that the scheduling “will throw students off track,” said Cummings.
However, the university explains there were no other better times to schedule the Catch-Up Week due to considerations for eight-week courses. The university wanted to schedule the break far enough into the semester for it to “feel particularly welcome,” said Evans.
“I do wish that the [Catch-Up Week] was a bit further from spring break. I think it would be more beneficial for the two weeks to be spaced out so that students can manage their time more efficiently and be more productive at different points in the semester. Regardless, I do think the extra week will be beneficial,” said Brau.