Thoughts on Teaching – Summer School – 7/9/2015
And so the summer session begins. I am teaching the second of our two summer sessions, which means that I just finished up roughly 8 weeks off before starting teaching again. I have never done that before, as I usually teach the first summer session, which means 3 weeks off, teach for 5 weeks, and then 5 weeks off. I can’t say I got any more or less done in having the 8 weeks off together, but I will see how I feel at the end of this summer session on how that change affects me.
I have 44 total students in two online sections this summer. We are on day 2 of the session, and 10 of those students have not yet logged into the classroom. Of the 34 who have, things seem to be going well so far. I have fielded some questions, and I have found one minor mistake in the material that I had prepared. Otherwise, I would say that it has been a smooth start so far. About 20-25 students have been at least somewhat active, starting to complete some assignments and interacting with the introductory materials.
The summer is always strange, as I pointed out to the students directly in one of my initial announcement posts. As opposed to a traditional, long semester, the students have just 5 weeks to complete all of the material. And, if you consider when I have to schedule exams (the school and Testing Center are only open Monday-Thursday over the summer), things get even more rushed. The first half of the course will take a little less than two weeks, which is normally the first seven weeks of a long semester. As I pointed out to the students, this means that each two days, they are covering a week’s worth of material. I would have let it go a bit longer, but with the school schedule, I have the first exam running a Wednesday and Thursday, leaving only 13 days to cover the first half of the course before the exam opens. Then, they will have about 2 1/2 weeks for the second half of the class, because I had to schedule my exams around the college’s schedule. I understand the need to have shorter work weeks in the summer and the less need for long hours with a much smaller student presence in summer classes, but 4 days a week is limiting when compared to 6 days a week in the long semester.
I have made some suggestions to the students on how to complete the material in time. I have the class set up with two major deadlines, one at the end of each unit. I know that the temptation for the students will be to put it all off until the end of each unit, but I have warned them that there is more material to complete than can be done in a day or two. My suggestion is that they take the class with the goal to complete each “week’s” worth of material from the long semesters every two days. If they do that, they will be on a path to complete the course material with no problem. I cannot, of course, force them to do this, but it is my suggestion. Of course, I could actually force them to do it, by putting in intermediate deadlines, but I like the flexibility that the current format allows students to have. The summers are always complicated, and I want to make this a process that works well for all of the students regardless of vacation and work schedules.
We shall see how the summer session progresses, but it has been a good start so far.