Collaborating to Build the Summer Session for 2015

It’s that time of year again– time to begin planning summer session.  The Academic Task Force recommended further centralization of the management of summer session, in order to “strategically plan and be proactive in the determination of course offerings to better meet student needs.”  This is without question the right goal, but whether empowering one individual to oversee the summer session would make that happen remains, for me, an open question.  In the end, planning summer session is a collaborative activity.

We depend on faculty, chairs, deans, the Registrar, and staff in the Provost’s officer to pull it off– and of course, on students, including matriculated UMW students and others who return to the Fredericksburg area for the summer and look to complete courses (as well as a smattering of high school students looking to earn some college credits).

The key in mounting an effective summer session is in offering courses that meet student demand.  We have to get into the habit of better understanding what students actually need in the summer session.  Given the choice between offering an elective that might serve 7 students and a required course that might serve 14, we need to offer the course that will enroll 14.  The isn’t to say that we can’t offer electives, especially in disciplines that have significant elective requirements, but we need to think about summer session as an opportunity to help students take the courses they need as they work to meet their graduation requirements.  My office is working to provide data on past summer session enrollments, to help faculty and Chairs make these determinations.  In addition, we are conducting a survey of students to help us better understand what courses they are interested in taking in the summer, and we look forward to sharing the results of the survey.

In addition, we have seen some positive results from our on-line offerings over the past few years.  My hope is that we can begin to offer more on-line courses, which create opportunity for students who are not able to spend a part of their summer here in Fredericksburg.  I know several faculty have been working to get on-line summer courses approved, and I want to encourage others to consider doing the same.  Our summer offerings should include a balance of on-line and face-to-face courses, but recent success with on-line enrollments suggests that we can do more in this area, in ways that can have a positive impact for students, and for our bottom line.

Ultimately, we all need to change the way we think about summer session.  The goal for summer 2014 is not to offer more courses (our attempts to mount more courses usually only ends in canceling more courses).  It is, rather, to offer courses better suited to student needs and interests–  “to better meet student needs,” as the Academic Task Force put it.  I hope that all of you, in your conversations with Chairs and with your Deans, will ask how you can help make that happen through this year’s summer offerings.  We have been seeing a decline of approximately 10% in overall enrollments in each of the past few summers.  My goal for the coming summer is to see a 10% increase over last year’s enrollment. I feel confident that through a coordinated effort, we reach this goal.

Leave a Reply