Online summer school is proving as popular as most things in the digital world. Last year more students took summer courses on the web than at either the Loop or Lincoln Park campus, using the flexibility to juggle work and family responsibilities, according to GianMario Besana, associate provost for Global Engagement and Online Learning.
Overall online credit hours in the summer term have been growing in recent years and increased about 73 percent between 2012 and 2016, as of June 9. The growth of undergraduate online summer credit hours is close behind and had expanded by about 70 percent between 2012 to 2016, also as of June 9.
"Our students lead complicated lives," Besana says. "Anything we can do to make their lives easier is good."
In its Vision 2018 strategic plan, DePaul committed to developing more flexibility in course delivery to meet changing student needs.
Julie Artis spent five years as chair of the sociology department and had limited information about who enrolled in DePaul's summer term. She was flying blind when deciding what courses to schedule for summer, she says. In her new role as director of Course Scheduling Analytics in Enrollment Management and Marketing, she determined that more than 90 percent of summer enrollments are DePaul juniors, seniors or graduate students.
"Had I known that when I was department chair, I would not have offered so many intro courses," she says.
Her recent analysis also found that a significant portion of DePaul's summer students were undergraduates enrolled in the Driehaus College of Business, but taking online courses in other colleges. With this data - and a closer look at how the College of Communication enlarged its summer credit hours by over 200 percent in recent years by boosting the number of sections available online
- she and Besana visited business school department chairs last May to showcase the student need that could be filled if they offered more sections of undergraduate business courses online during the summer term.
Acting on this information, business departments were able to increase the online undergraduate credit hours students took from 268 last summer to about 1,600 anticipated in summer 2016, a jump of about 500 percent. To help business professors design the online courses they will be delivering in June, July and August, the DePaul Online Teaching Series program hosted a special cohort for them.
Amanda Laskowski, an academic advisor in the Driehaus College of Business, says business students taking online summer classes want to progress towards their degree requirements while working at internships outside of Chicago. "For out-of-state and international students, they are seeking to catch-up or graduate early while still enjoying time at home during the summer," she says.
Two colleges - Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and the School for New Learning - will deliver the most online undergraduate sections in this year's summer session, offering 53 and 51 of the 200 sections available. The College of Computing and Digital Media is next with 34 sections, followed by the College of Communication with 27 undergraduate sections this summer. The College of Business is offering 16, the College of Science and Health 13, the School of Music five and the School of Education two.
Artis believes the tremendous growth in summer online enrollments is filling pent up demand.
Besana agrees. He explains, students are turning to their computers to pick up a class to get ahead, retake a course or squeeze in one that was not available or already closed when they wanted to take it in another quarter.
The popularity of online courses is not limited to summer. Online course enrollments during the fall, winter and spring quarters are soaring as well.