In high school, fall term was about new beginnings and spring term was for closing the loop. Summer term was for not thinking about school unless you needed to make up a class.
For the most part, college does away with those clear delineations. Students’ lives become much more complicated in college, sometimes forcing them off a clear four-year path. Also, college allows students more flexibility in how they progress through their academic careers.
Establishing summer as a viable term for all students, not just students who need to retake a course, provides options for everyone on campus, regardless of whether they are trying to get ahead, stay on track, or catch up.
General education courses are a necessity and a requirement. They build the foundation for the rest of a student’s degree program. But very few students are excited to wade through two years of these courses before they can begin their degree program in earnest. Eager to dig into their degree coursework, they become impatient as they trudge through courses like Principles of Psychology or Introduction to Communication.
For these motivated students, the Summer term is a great time to complete their general education requirements early. By making general ed requirements available through online, asynchronous courses, freshmen and sophomores can take one or two courses over the summer and still have time for relaxation that the summer season often demands. And students will have that much more room in their schedules for coursework directly relating to their field of study.
These general education courses can also be a good opportunity to acclimate students to college-level coursework. Online courses through TEL provide students with active instructors who have regular office hours as well as student coaches who monitor student progress. The coaches reach out when students approach an assignment that has been tricky for other students, or if they start to see students falling behind.
Provide incentives for incoming freshmen to take a course over the summer. This will get them in the frame of mind for college-level work and give them a headstart on the degree requirements. A one-hour course like College Readiness can give students the tools they need to be successful in their freshman year and still give them lots of time to enjoy the summer months.
While mini-mesters gained popularity during COVID-19, schools have often used shorter six- and eight-week terms so students could get a course in during the summer break. Structuring the Summer term so students can complete a course or two at their own pace can give them a little extra breathing room during Fall and Spring terms.
While shorter terms create a heavier daily workload, knocking out two to three hours of coursework five days a week still provides a lot of time for work, sports, and family obligations over the summer. With online, asynchronous courses, students can still complete their assignments even while traveling. This flexibility during a Summer term can give students more choice during the other terms.
For example, if a student knows they have a difficult course coming up in their Fall term, they can knock out a general education or lower-level course during the summer. With only 12 credits in the fall, the student can spend more time on the harder course without taking away from other obligations. This is also a great choice for student-athletes who might need to have a lighter course term during their season.
Work with advisors and your athletic coaches to encourage students to take advantage of shorter terms, such as summer, and take more ownership of their learning.
The Summer term is still valuable for students who need to do a little catching up. This can be because they missed a requirement on their way to graduation or because they need to retake a course. But because students’ pathways are often so individualized, it’s difficult to always have the courses students need during the summer.
With online, asynchronous courses, schools can provide students more options for their individual needs because there are no enrollment minimums in order for a course to make. Faculty involvement is a lot less than a traditional course, providing resources as students need them but not having to manage a course like they would if it were synchronous.
Students are able to finish their coursework to stay on track no matter which course they need to retake. Faculty and staff are able to still enjoy their summer break.
Work with your student support center and advisors to make sure students know about options for course completion over the summer.
Summer school has a stigma. No one wants to be writing papers instead of trips to the beach. But as students take more ownership of their learning, they can use the Summer term to provide more flexibility in their degree program. From getting ahead, to staying on track, to catching up, schools can offer students more options by encouraging students to take advantage of the Summer term.