An Overview of Summer Session Planning

Three of the changes adopted for summer session planning last year are being repeated as we build the next summer session. We will again distribute an online survey to all active students to gauge their potential interest in attending the summer session. We will release the schedule of summer session courses at the end of January rather than December (as had been the case previously) in order to afford more time to plan the schedule of offerings. And a list of the strongest summer session courses over the past four years will be made available to all academic programs to assist in planning which courses to offer.

The Academic Task Force recommended that UMW “strategically plan and be proactive in the determination of course offerings to better meet student needs.” In keeping with this recommendation, we are again distributing a survey to students regarding their interests in summer courses. While we know that several departments do a survey of their majors to try to gauge interest in potential summer classes, we thought it would be helpful to reach out more broadly to students and to do so now. Not only will the survey help us gather useful data, but it should also serve to stimulate interest among students in summer classes. Here’s a copy of the survey for your reference. Note that this is a pdf version rather than the “live” one.

Last year’s survey produced some interesting results. A total of 338 students responded. Juniors made up the largest percentage of the group responding, followed by seniors. The three leading reasons students selected for taking summer courses were (1) to get caught up in order to be able to graduate on time, (2) to take a course they hadn’t been able to schedule in the fall/spring semester, and (3) to get ahead in order to be able to graduate sooner.

Students responding to the survey were far more interested in taking courses in their major than in taking general education courses. Forty-five percent of the responses provided stated that taking “courses in my major/degree program” was the area of greatest interest to the student. That was about double the number of responses expressing an interest in taking a general education course (23% of the responses selected this option).

Not surprisingly, 10:15 a.m. and 1 p.m. were selected as the two most popular times for taking a class. But 18% of the responses indicated an interest in taking a course online, a factor that was reflected in the strong performance of the online courses offered.

In prior years, summer session planning aimed to have the course schedule posted on the web in early December. This meant that we were asking departments to start figuring out the summer session more or less immediately after the early registration for the spring semester had concluded. Last year, we moved the planning calendar forward a bit in order to give academic departments and programs more time to plan summer session offerings.

The plan is once again to post the full schedule of summer session courses on the web on January 25, 2016. More detail about the deadlines for summer session course schedules will be provided from the Dean’s Office in each college. Registration for summer courses will still start the first day after spring break (Monday, March 7, 2016). Here’s the full calendar of summer session planning activities.

To aid in the planning effort, we generated a list of the courses offered in the past four summer sessions and have identified those that have generally produced the strongest enrollment results. The list also identifies the courses that have only barely met the minimum enrollments necessary. We will be using this information as one reference point as we plan the courses to be offered this summer. Separate lists were generated showing summer session undergraduate and graduate course enrollment histories. The lists were provided to the three College Deans for further distribution as deemed appropriate.

Two years ago, we inaugurated a specific summer session “marketing plan” that we had worked out with Malcolm Holmes in the University Marketing Department. I will again be working with Malcolm and Kimberley Williams to revise our approaches in order to improve on the marketing efforts we tried in the last two years. These plans will be under development in January – if you have suggestions for us to consider, please send them my way.

It’s our hope that the strategies outlined above will help enable us to produce the strongest possible set of summer session offerings for summer 2016.

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