Every summer I teach a type of course that has become more popular in a world of time-to-graduation metrics: the six week intensive. Usually taught online, and compressed significantly, this type of class prep is sometimes overwhelming and demands constant attention on the part of the faculty and students.
I’ve gone through different stages of love-hate with the accelerated pace now that I’ve been teaching some repeated sections of the same course, and I’m past the conversion phase of figuring out what pieces of a sixteen week course simply resist compression. My focus this summer is on refining the experience, and particularly communicating to my students strategies for success in the condensed timeframe. I’ve found that a lot of things I do in the normal semester, like low stakes warm-up assignments and dropping grades in participating categories, don’t work on the six week schedule.
Here’s a few policies I’m trying with my summer course to try to improve outcomes in the intensive course:
- Daily online “fast-response” office hours. I’ve found that holding in-person office hours for the summer is rarely productive, as many of my students have returned home or are traveling and have chosen the online modality to accommodate that distance. Instead, this semester I’m trying spreading out my office hours with a dedicated hour of fast-response time for messages: this will give students an hour when they can reach me chat-style on any day, which I think is essential with the pace of summer intensive assignments.
- Implementing a “100 point” assessment system. To convey to students the importance of completing each milestone in writing, development, and quizzes, each assignment fits into a clear box in the 100 point / 100 percentage point assessment model for the summer class. I’ve set up the calculations to include the same percentages of each type of content as the full length iteration of the class, but with assignments redesigned to fit in the available time and the percentage value of every assignment clearly labeled in the weekly overviews. Hopefully, the visible warnings about the high stakes of some of these assignments (with a series of completion-only graded drafts) will make it easier for students to prioritize their time commitments.
- All modules open day one. In my typical online courses, I open a few weeks of content at a time: this is great for the semester, when I want students to share focus and particularly concentrate on each week’s milestones and discussions. However, the summer intensive doesn’t frequently invite the same consistent work habits. This summer, I’m opening all the content and assignments from day one so that students with those types of conflicts can work ahead as needed. I’m still keeping the sense of a clear six week progression, but this should allow students to better manage foreseeable schedule conflicts.
There are some challenges of the summer intensive model (like handling constant grading and feedback for upwards of 100 students within 24-48 hours so students can progress to the next milestone) that I honestly haven’t figured out how to improve, but with each iteration I see stronger outcomes from the class.
Do you have any strategies for handling summer intensives? Share them in the comments!
[“Deadvlei” by Sonse is licensed under CC BY]