Expanding the Power of Summer

With more than 1,000 credit courses in more than 100 fields of study, Summer Sessions at the University of Washington are open to everyone and offer something for all students. They also provide faculty members like Ana Gomez-Bravo with the opportunity to team up with UW Continuum College and transform their courses into a fully online Summer Sessions course to help increase student access.

One of the best parts of Summer Sessions at the University of Washington is that it’s open to everyone and can provide greater access to popular courses than during the regular academic year. As a result, Summer Sessions is the perfect opportunity for students to earn college credit while exploring a new interest — like the virtual iteration of Food and Community: Cultural Practices in the Hispanic World (SPAN 362).

Spanish and Portuguese Studies professor Ana Gomez-Bravo has taught the course in person for three years. However, after experiencing significant enrollment increases when the course switched to remote learning during the pandemic, combined with the fact that SPAN 362 meets UW’s general education requirements in Social Sciences (SSc) and Diversity (DIV), Ana realized the course would be an excellent fit for Summer Sessions. And she was right. Since offering the course asynchronously online, registrations have nearly doubled in the last two years.

An early adopter of working on food studies in the Hispanic world, Ana wrote the first textbook for the course. “It’s been a journey for me to go from helping create a field to now seeing it delivered in a professional way,” she says. “Being able to impact and reach students with that content is something I’m really enthusiastic about.” 

Creating a Rich Experience 

When you have the kind of flexibility allowed by online learning, students don't have to choose between being home or making progress toward graduation.

 — Ana Gomez-Bravo, Professor, Spanish and Portuguese Studies

Ana applied to collaborate with the UW Continuum College and their Learning Experience team to turn SPAN 362 into one of the fully online Summer Sessions courses offered by UW. “The summer is complex for students. Having an asynchronous online course increases access for students. There’s a lot of students who work in the summer and quite a few that either live out of state, internationally or who aren’t in the city of Seattle proper,” Ana explains. “Online learning allows students to skip the commute to campus and save time and resources during the summer. With that flexibility, students don't have to choose between being home or progressing toward graduation.”

Since SPAN 362 itself is not new, the content of the course is well-refined. But when it came to creating the practical components that make the online course possible — scripting recordings, filming lecture videos, establishing the course format and structure, and more — Ana relied on the experts at Continuum College. 

“Continuum College has been an excellent partner. We work very well together as a team to brainstorm ideas, from envisioning the course for distance learning to planning specifics such as meeting logistics,” she says. “The Learning Experience team within Continuum College is a professional, highly organized group and I’m impressed by the volume of work the recording team powers through.”

Ana adds that the course content is well-organized in terms of chronology and accessibility. The online format has also facilitated new opportunities for enhancing her class and engaging students. She’s found exciting and diverse ways to present visual content that is not as easily presented in the classroom. Using tools like public forums enables students to reflect on the narratives of their classmates, learn from them and think about what they want to share. 

A New Way to Learn

Committed and looking forward to teaching the course for the foreseeable future, Ana encourages colleagues with popular courses to consider creating online offerings. “Building this course was very fulfilling and you can see the advantages of offering the course in this format by the increased enrollments,” she says. “I'm teaching more students because this format allows me to reach more of them.”