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Weekly Tip: Preparing Your Semester Schedule for a Summer Session

Are you scheduled to teach a summer session? Converting a 16-week semester course calendar to a summer schedule poses some unique design challenges. This week’s tip provides some considerations as you begin converting your schedule.

Resist the Urge to Cut Content

When condensing your schedule, simply removing some content from the regular semester schedule can be tempting. However, if the summer session is worth the same number of credits as the semester section, student experiences with course content should be comparable to the experiences of students in regular semesters.

That said, condensing to a summer schedule poses an opportunity to reconsider if every activity in the course is truly necessary for students to learn concepts and achieve learning outcomes. If an activity feels extraneous as you prepare your summer content, consider cutting that activity from both the summer and semester schedules as long as students are still engaging with the necessary concepts.

Rely on SLOs to Design Alternative Activities

While we want students to have similar experiences per credit hour regardless of which term they take the class, that does not mean that their experiences need to be identical. In some cases, you may have activities that last an entire semester. Group projects, guest speakers, community outreach, etc. may simply not be feasible within a summer session. There is no need to force these activities to work! What matters more than exactly replicating learning activities is that students in each session meet – and are assessed according to – the same student learning outcomes (SLOs).

If a learning experience that you would include in a full semester, does not fit in the summer timeframe, we suggest evaluating the purpose of that experience and returning to your SLOs to determine how students in summer sessions can meet those outcomes through alternative assessments and learning activities. When in doubt, your SLOs serve as the filter through which you develop all the content and activities in the course.

Redistribute Workload

Consider mapping out when students have the heaviest workload during a regular 16-week term. Students expect summer to move faster and to feel like they are spending more time per day on coursework for a given class. Still, you can save yourself and your students some stress by utilizing the summer schedule in a way that distributes work and cognitive load to avoid a situation in which too much happens in one particular week. With some additional planning, you can avoid accidentally overwhelming students at certain points in the summer, which is a risk of simply condensing the 16-week schedule to a summer schedule.

Backward Design is one strategy with which you can manage work and cognitive load distribution without relying too heavily on the full semester schedule. Backward Design encourages you to start with SLOs and then use assessments and timeframe to introduce concepts on a schedule that sets your students up for success. (To learn more about Backward Design, visit two previous tips, “Backward Design in Three Steps” and “Backward Design: A Planning Framework”).

Due dates are another consideration when planning workload. We always recommend creating consistent expectations in the course by choosing regular intervals for work to be due. If you have consistent intervals between due dates in your full semester course, you will need to shorten those intervals for summer, but maintaining consistency still benefits students. For example, you may set the expectation that in the summer course, work will always be due on the same day(s) each week. Choosing and honoring those dates can also help you plan when you want to present new materials.

Good luck preparing for your summer session! If you would like to consult with an instructional designer as you adjust your schedule, we invite you to visit us in On-Demand Support!

This series of videos and teaching tips is presented by Academic Outreach and Innovation (AOI). We invite you to join the conversation. Share your tips and ask questions through this blog. If you would like these posts to be sent directly to your email each week, subscribe to the listserv by emailing aoi.li@wsu.edu.

For more information or to schedule time with an instructional designer or emerging technologist, contact aoi.li@wsu.edu or request training on demand. You can also visit the Spark Faculty Innovation Studio in room 102 any time from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, during the academic year.