Every year the University of Connecticut adds 35 to 40 new online courses offered over the summer, according to associate director of UConn eCampus Desmond McCaffrey. The online courses are workshopped for five to six months by eCampus in order to transform the curriculum to become more technology-friendly rather than simply posting the syllabus online. Instructional designers work with the faculty to facilitate this process to streamline the curriculum for the shorter summer terms. While there is certainly something to say about the pitfalls of online classes compared to traditional face time with a professor, there are appreciable benefits to online classes, particularly during intersessions.
For starters, having courses provided online gives opportunities for students who previously may not have been able to consider the option of taking courses during the summer. Traditional summer intersession courses usually had additional costs attached to them. For in-state students, it often included the added time and money to commute to campus. However, for those students who are out-of-state, this often comes with an additional financial burden of finding places to live near campus for only a couple months. This isn’t taking into account the sacrifice some students may have to make in spending time with families over summer break. The presence of online courses allows these students to get credits and stay on track to complete their education with less of a financial burden and without the absolute need to be on campus.
Obviously having a discussion face to face with a faculty member will garnish more value to a student than learning course material strictly through a screen. And there are some issues with strictly online courses. As such, UConn should still be trying to offer traditional style classes rather than strictly online courses. However, for courses where it is applicable there should be an online option during intersessions. Even if traditional courses offer a better learning experience, for some students it simply is not worth the additional monetary cost, particularly if the courses being taken during intersession are general education or elective requirements as opposed to core major courses.
College is expensive, and with the upcoming tuition increases it is only going to get more expensive. Summer courses allow students to either stay on track or even get ahead in their education to graduate earlier than expected. Offering online classes helps lower barriers and costs for some students and should continue to be a staple for summer intersession.