By Tysen Kendig
The days from mid-May through early June on the University Park campus have traditionally been a quiet time, when locals take advantage of short lines at the Creamery, residence halls turn silent and late spring breezes envelop the smattering of students relaxing on the Old Main lawn with a book.
While that atmosphere still remains mostly intact, the buzz of students shuffling to class is at a higher volume than usual this early in the summer. The increased student presence is attributed to a new, more practical academic summer schedule implemented this year.
Although there are still a small number of four-week courses being offered, the formal intersession that typically began after the completion of spring semester exams has been eliminated. In addition, the eight-week summer session that usually began in June and overlapped the popular six-week summer term has been modified by the new scheduling format.
"For some time, students have been asking for a fall break. Rather than just taking a look at adding a couple of days off in the fall, we looked at how well the whole calendar was working and examined student feedback, enrollment patterns and national trends before making any changes," said Ingrid Blood, associate vice provost and associate dean of undergraduate education.
"We discovered that the four-week intersession and eight-week summer session have steadily been decreasing in enrollment over the past several years, and we also found that there weren't many courses being offered during the four-week program. However, the six-week term remained a very popular session among both new freshmen and current students."
As a result, the University tailored a new summer schedule to fit the needs of today's college student. A series of two concurrent six-week sessions were agreed to best address time and content concerns about summer programming while giving both students and faculty a broader range of flexibility.
The first session following the conclusion of the spring semester began on Monday, May 15, and continues through Friday, June 23; the second session begins on Monday, June 26, and concludes on Friday, Aug. 4.
This schedule enhances students' ability to bolster their transcript and ease their fall and spring credit load. Previously, students would be limited to taking one of the sparse course offerings during intersession, and one or two courses during either the eight-week or six-week summer session. Now, students can take one to two classes during each session, or choose to take a couple of classes during one session and spend the remaining part of the summer working or completing an internship. Either way, summer session students will still enjoy a nice break between the end of summer sessions and the fall term.
In addition, with the second six-week session starting later in the summer, more emphasis can be put on freshman programming. Previously, the eight-week session often conflicted with the high school schedules of incoming freshmen.
"With the new schedule, we can now focus most of the programming for the first session on current students and contour the second session more toward entering students, with first-year seminars and more sections of typical freshmen courses," said Blood, who assured that equally comprehensive course offerings for all students will be available during both sessions.
Academic departments and individual faculty are encouraged to tinker with the new structure. For example, departments may still choose to offer an eight-week section of a course that overlaps from one session to the next to see if it works better than a more time-intensive, six-week period.
Faculty also may tap into the summer session enhancement fund, which supports and provides resources for faculty to try to implement a new style of teaching and take advantage of ever-evolving technology.
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