Faculty within academic departments, colleges, and universities are now routinely faced with the decision to offer courses or programs in an online environment in addition to the more traditional, face-to-face classroom format. These decisions are made both by an individual faculty member who wants to expand teaching and learning formats to include online learning, to entire departments that decide to offer an entire program/course of study online. The regular school year (August through May) offers faculty many opportunities to present both online and hybrid courses. There is much research in the efficacy of online learning as well as specific types of pedagogical tools such as type of feedback provided to students (Morgan & Toledo, 2006). However, little research has been done on the possibilities that the summer school session provides to meet the needs of students who are enrolled in traditional, residential programs but living at home during the summer as well as learners who are interested in completing a specific course but not enrolled during the regular school year. The summer school session offered by most universities opens unique opportunities for faculty and students as well as academic departments and colleges to be involved in online courses.
It seems evident from a review of literature that online education in higher education institutions is growing and will be a significant factor for many faculty and academic departments/colleges as they strategize their future. According to an ongoing annual study conducted by Allen & Seaman (2006) nearly 3.2 million students were taking at least one course online in fall semester, 2005. This represents an additional 800,000 students in online courses, which is twice the number in any other year of the four-year study (Allen & Seaman, 2006). Although the summer semester was not identified specifically in this or any of the research reviewed, nearly 96% of large universities (defined as having a student population over 15,000) offer one or more courses online (Allen & Seaman, 2006).
Research studies provide a great deal of insight on why individual faculty, academic departments, and universities as a whole are pursuing online course opportunities. One benefit is meeting the needs of non-traditional learners who often juggle classes with work and family obligations (Maguire, 2005). Online courses can be designed to be flexible and convenient for students and faculty while increasing revenue for institutions (Berge, 1998). Models for funding summer school certainly fall into that category as revenue sources for faculty to teach summer courses have been diminishing over the past five years.
There are many barriers or concerns expressed in the literature with online courses. One study published in January 2002, revealed the dropout rate of students in online courses was higher than in hybrid or face-to-face/traditional instruction (Bonk, 2002). Adequate provision of technical support and infrastructure was identified as significant barriers (Cho & Berge, 2002). Yang and Cornelius (2005) found that opponents of online learning believe that it is inferior to traditional classroom environments and online courses are growing in popularity because of their ability to generate revenue. However, Allen and Seaman (2006) found these perceptions have changed significantly. In their published study of responses of over 2200 universities and colleges, 62% of academic leaders who responded rated learning outcomes in online courses the same or superior to courses taught in a traditional face-to-face format. Also, generating revenue was the lowest rated reason for offering online courses (Allen & Seaman, 2006).
Key Terms in this Chapter
IDEA Student Evaluations: A student rating system of instructors that is available from The IDEA Center (Kansas State University) that provides an online version of its evaluation system that can be utilized in online courses.
Peer Mentorship: A relationship in which an experienced online faculty member assists, trains and supports a less experienced faculty member in the processes and procedures of delivering an online course successfully.
Virtual Learning Environment System: Software systems that provide the management of online or e-learning. Educational tools such as tests/quizzes, discussions, and live chat are included. Examples include Blackboard, ANGEL LMS, and many others.
Hybrid Course: Course that blends face-to-face instruction with some online component. Substantial amount of content is delivered online with some face-to-face meetings (Allen & Seaman, 2006)
Asynchronous Learning: The instructor of the course and the students are separated by time and space. The students are able to utilize course materials and do assignments, take quizzes, etc at any time that is designated by the instructor although the instructor is not necessarily on the computer (Maguire, 2005).
Face-to-Face (Traditional): Instruction that includes courses in which zero to 29 percent of the content/instruction is delivered online. Content and instruction is delivered primarily in writing or orally (Allen & Seamen, 2006).
Online Learning: A course that is delivered entirely online. Course management software is utilized and typically there are no face-to-face meetings except perhaps for testing.
Course Redesign: In this article, the process of taking all aspects of a traditional face to face course and revising the content and the learning activities to be offered online while maintaining the course objectives and rigor.