Broadening Accessibility with Online Summer Sessions Programs

A New Slate of Online Classes Allow Students to Graduate on Time and Increases Access to Summer Sessions Programming.

When it comes to making education accessible to nontraditional learners, Continuum College at the University of Washington has always led the way. Beginning in 1912, the unit launched correspondence courses for the UW.

Now, Summer Sessions is collaborating with campus partners to build and administer 10 new online courses for summer 2021. The programs are mostly in the arts and sciences, including Greek and Roman Mythology in the classics department, Vikings and Popular Culture in the Scandinavian department, Witchcraft from History to Pop Culture in the Germanics department and the History of Mexico in the history department with more to come in future summers.

“Our goal is to build new classes that help students graduate on time and increase outreach access for the campus partners,” said Sarah Mangold, the assistant director of Summer Sessions. “During summer, anyone can take these courses, so they’re ideal for both matriculated and nonmatriculated students.”

Senior director of Summer Sessions, Durwin Long, notes that 2020 summertime courses saw enrollment increases across the board, but most notable was the 66% increase in enrollments in lower-division classes that carry 100 or 200 course numbers and a more than 60% increase in out-of-state student registrations.

“The lesson learned from these data is the primary reason that students enroll in a summer course is to stay on track for on-time graduation,” said Long. “And for students who don't live in Seattle, or even for students who do live in Seattle and have a job in the summer or an internship in the summer, the availability of an online course that they can take on their own schedule.”

If UW can provide more online courses in future summers and offer classes that students need and want, Long thinks that online courses represent a significant growth opportunity for future summers.

“The creation of new large enrollment online courses can greatly improve the number of enrollments a department will receive."

 — Chris Kemp, Assistant Director of Summer Sessions

To bolster this initiative, the Summer Sessions team is working with campus partners to guide them to think differently about the courses they schedule and help them plan for course offerings more likely to meet more students' needs if they were offered online.

“With the implementation of the new Summer Sessions revenue sharing model, online courses can help campus partners think in new and creative ways on how they can best serve their students and the interests of their school and college,” said Chris Kemp, the assistant director of Summer Sessions.

“The creation of new large enrollment online courses can greatly improve the number of enrollments a department will receive, which in turn can either help them run smaller enrollment but academically important courses for students, or receive additional revenue to fund important goals within their department,” he said.

Summer Sessions is also providing additional support for online course development by connecting campus partners with Continuum College’s instructional design team, Academic Excellence, to map out and create or revise an online course. Crafting a new online course involves five to six months of collaboration or three to four months for smaller revisions.

If the course is a good fit to be fully online, the campus partner and the Academic Excellence team will meet to discuss the course and the assistance the instructional designers can provide. The services include building a course map, identifying learning objectives, creating an assessment strategy, producing lesson content, filming videos and creating scripts for videos and storyboards. All with a focus on universal design and developing student engagement strategies.

“Our online courses are interactive and more than posting readings and a few lectures in Canvas. With our video team, we are able to take the lectures outside the studio and onto campus or into the community with class field trips that might not always be possible in traditional classroom settings,” noted Mangold. “Our Art History course development took us to the Seattle Art Museum to see a current show relevant to the course, and then into a local art collector’s home to see and hear more from the experts. It’s stuff you normally wouldn’t get to do in a classroom and opens up the possibilities for both faculty and students,” she said.

If a survey of last year’s Summer Sessions students says anything, getting students engaged in online summer courses has been a success. Long said freshmen, sophomores or juniors who enrolled in courses this past summer were asked, “How likely are you to enroll in a UW summer course in the future?" And 58.3% said that they were extremely likely or somewhat likely to take a summer class again.

They were also asked, "How likely are you to enroll in an online or remote Summer Sessions course in the future?" 67.8% said that they were extremely likely or somewhat likely to enroll. And 35.2% said that they were extremely likely to take an online course in the future.

“What I think this data tells us is that students are open and receptive to taking future summer classes,” said Long. “And a clear majority of students are open to taking online or remote classes as well. Expanding the availability of online courses will expand access, but it's also consistent with students are saying they're likely to do in the future.”