Thoughts on Teaching – 6/10/2012 – Teaching summer school

Well, that time is here again.  Time for teaching summer school again.  We always need the extra money, so I teach every summer.  I teach online, as that is easier with my own schedule as well as easy to step in with prepared classes.  Also, as I am the primary online history instructor at my community college, there is always a high demand for my classes in the summer.  So, I never have to worry about my classes making.  It’s a good thing all the way around.

The summer is always weird.  Squeezing what the students normally do in a 16-week semester in 5 weeks is quite a challenge for them.  They have a lot to do each week, and I don’t think that a lot of students realize what that means.  We always get students who are taking vacations in the middle of the summer session or who wait a week before entering the course, leaving them tremendously behind.  I think that students assume that an online summer course is going to be easy.  The general perception of online courses, I have found, is that they are easy (not mine, unfortunately for them).  As well, many assume that it will be easy to complete a course in 5 weeks because it takes up less time.  The time demand is high, and you cannot put your work off until the last minute because there is a lot of it.

Summer school also attracts an odd mix of students.  Here are some of the types I have noted:

  • Students who want to finish their degree early and so are doubling up in the summer
  • Students who go to a four-year university and are home for the summer and taking a class or two for cheap
  • Students who have failed the class in the normal semester and are hoping for better results in the summer
  • Students who have never taken either an online course or a college course and decide that this is the best way to do it

It’s the last group that is the biggest pain for me.  It’s always a good 10-15% of the students.  I don’t know if someone advised them to do it, or if they simply decided on their own that their first college course should be an online summer class, but it is almost universally a bad idea.  Either online courses or summer courses by themselves are more challenging then many semester-long, face-to-face classes, but to do both as your first experience is brutal.  I spend an inordinate amount of my time in the summer dealing with these students.

On the other side, the first two groups tend to be some of the most motivated and strongest students that I will see in an academic year, so the summer also has its good side, as these students can restore your faith in students.  Teaching can be depressing, especially when a semester goes poorly, and the summer session can sometimes be rejuvenating because you do get some of the best students there.

As of right now, we are just finishing up the first week of the summer session, so four more weeks are left.  The first set of assignments come in tonight at midnight, so I will be able to start sizing up the students at this point.  And, as it is an online class, I again have online office hours.  I have them Wednesday and Sunday nights, and, so far, one student has come by to ask a question.  That makes it already one more student than came to my online office hours all of last semester, so there’s something.

I don’t know how active I will be posting on this blog this summer, but you will probably be hearing from me on Wednesday and Sunday nights at least, as I have to sit here at the computer for two hours anyway.

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About Scott Williams

I am an educator, community-college instructor, thinker, husband, parent of three, student of life, owner of a parrot, player of video games, voracious reader, restless wanderer, and all around guy.

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