Penn will offer virtually over 100 undergraduate courses this summer


Credit: Felicity Yick

Penn will be offering fully virtual classes this summer, and the roster will have more variety and places available than in a typical year.

The University will offer more than 100 undergraduate summer courses at the School of Arts and Sciences, seven at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and 10 at the Wharton School. This summer, as in a typical year, students have the option of registering for either the full 11-week session, from May 24 to August 6, or the two five-and-a-half-week sessions, which take place in the month of May From June 24 to 30 and from July 1 to August 6.

Director of certifying and non-degree programs Jaime Kelly said the summer school list falls between the size of a normal year’s availability and the summer 2020 list. Although all summer courses and programs on campus have been canceled During the summer 2020 semester, Penn Summer experienced an “incredible interest” in virtual summer courses last year with a more than 70% increase in enrollments, prompting him to add more 300 additional places. in different courses in summer 2020.

Although Kelly said registration numbers for the semester are not yet available as class registrations are open until May 10, she said 420 class requests have already been submitted for this semester. Kelly added that many of her colleagues at “Ivy Plus” schools – a term that includes all eight schools in the Ivy League and others with similar rankings and prestige – predicted higher enrollment numbers for their schools. upcoming summer sessions, adding that there is a possibility that Penn may experience this as well.

Russell Composto, associate dean for undergraduate education at the School of Engineering, clarified that the final list is always subject to change and other courses related to data science and artificial intelligence can still be added. Kelly also said that additional request could result in the addition of courses to the SAS course list.

“The planning for this summer reflects the success of all schools and programs in offering online summer courses last year, balanced by an awareness of the current state of the evolving pandemic,” Deputy Provost Beth Winkelstein wrote in an emailed statement to the Daily Pennsylvanian. “We continue to plan for the safest, most meaningful, and highest quality education – and we pride ourselves on the creative and flexible approaches our faculty and students take to balance these goals. ”

Kelly said the administration used a “wish list” to determine which courses students wanted to take during the summer, as well as a survey of visiting undergraduates and high school students conducted by Penn Summer. Even before the decision to make all classrooms virtual was made, Kelly said the list Penn Summer presented to college departments was partially online for accessibility purposes.

“This year we went to the departments with the classes we wanted and the schedule that we would like them to take place,” Kelly said. “Even though the coronavirus count was improving a lot and there were massive vaccinations, we thought, ‘There are still students who are not here, and we also want to serve them. “”

After going through a pandemic year and a fully online summer session in 2020, Kelly and Composto said they learned more about the teaching formats that work and don’t work for students, and have since worked to accommodate a wide variety of students. Needs.

For Composto, one of the main takeaways from previous online sessions last year was not to overload students with too much content. Many professors have done “maybe too good a job” providing additional videos and materials for students even when it was optional, she said, resulting in an increase in the workload.

“We learned our lessons from last fall perfectly to kind of reduce the load – less is better, less is more,” said Composto. “I think we take this in the summer as well.”

According to Kelly, one of Penn Summer’s main goals for this session is to work with the instructors to find the best way to deliver their classes to the students. She mentioned that while students often prefer to have asynchronous components in their lessons in order to better fit their schedules and accommodate various time zones, students and instructors still prefer to have opportunities to connect in. a partially synchronous format.

Kelly added that she believes the student experience this summer will be more similar to the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters as student resources such as libraries and offices have had time to adjust to the virtual atmosphere and meet the needs of students.

While Kelly and Composto have said they do not anticipate the fully virtual summer experience to continue after the COVID-19 era, Composto mentioned that there is certainly an interest in discussing and pursuing virtual offerings during the COVID-19 era. future summer sessions with the aim of increasing accessibility for students.

Equity is also an important aspect of accessibility to keep in mind even when the number of registrations is high, said Composto. He stressed that Penn’s summer school should not be an option just for students with means, and said Student Financial Services has been accommodating in providing assistance to students who need to catch up. .

Composto and Winkelstein ultimately pointed out that faculty have been flexible and willing to take on greater teaching responsibilities throughout the pandemic – with Kelly, they expressed optimism for this year’s session.

“I actually think we feel pretty confident this summer as to how these classes will go over the summer sessions because I think we have a lot of experience,” said Kelly.

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