Students favor summer online courses for convenience

Students work on their computers in Homer Babbidge Library. Online classes over the summer tend to often more freedom, said those who have taken them. (Jason Jiang/Daily Campus)

Keeping up with increasingly digital times, colleges across the country have begun to offer more online courses to students in order to provide a more convenient and interactive learning experience.

UConn is no different.

Every year, the university offers 35 to 40 new online courses for its shortened summer session, a popular time for students to earn credits away from campus, Associate Director of UConn eCampus Desmond McCaffrey said.

The Uconn eCampus provides a resource for students and faculty to interact regularly in a variety of ways. One of their programs helps faculty design online courses.“One of the things I’m happy to see is the breath of opportunity,” McCaffrey said about the new courses being offered in the summer, particularly those online.

Online courses get workshopped for five to six months by eCampus before the term begins in order to ensure quality. These online courses strive to be the perfect marriage of pedagogy and technology, McCaffrey said.

The eCampus motto is to transform classes rather than simply transfer the traditional syllabus online. Instructional designers help faculty format their courses to be more catered for the shorten summer term or online.

However, the growing popularity of the online courses does not come without the continuing debate of whether or not they offer the same quality of education as traditional courses.

The benefit of the convenience of online courses is apparent to many students.

“I could stay at home and go on vacation and still have a summer,” said UConn senior Jennifer Birchwale, who has taken two online summer classes, said.  “It wasn’t just hours of class everyday.”

Like with traditional classes, however, students said the less effort they put into online courses, the less they got out of them.

“As long as you know enough to pass the test, that’s all I really needed. Whereas if I took it over the semester I may have retained it more,” Birchwale said. “You don’t learn nearly as much, and you don’t learn nearly as well. At least I didn’t.”

The office of Summer and Winter Programs has begun collecting student surveys following each semester to get feedback like that from Birchwale. The surveys ask students if they got into the course they were looking for, how registering went and what overall grade they would give the program itself.

In general, a well-designed course can be just as good online or in-person, with little differences in quality of education, McCaffrey said.

“I think there are benefits and there are challenges to each,” McCaffrey said. He went on to add that blended classes, which integrate both online and in-person components, are ideal for most students moving forward.

There are plenty of benefits to taking a summer course on campus, including smaller class sizes, a greater focus on the topics you’re studying and simply “summer itself is just awesome,” Cowan said.

“The days are beautiful and the weather is warm and you’re doing your homework on a blanket by the lake,” Cowan said about some additional benefits of being on campus for summer classes.

The university limits students to only taking up to two courses per summer session, with a total of five for the three terms – May session and both summer intersessions.

While available financial aid is limited for the summer, students can still receive monetary support from the university as long as they start early and make priority date deadlines. Out-of-state students face no extra charge for summer courses, thanks to a flat rate for all students, per credit.


Bailey Wright is associate photo editor and associate managing editor at The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at bailey.wright@uconn.edu.