Blacksburg will be experiencing one of its busiest summers ever, with an increase of summer session enrollment as well as the launch of new summer programs available to incoming freshmen.
According to Wanda Dean, assistant vice president for enrollment and degree management, the increase is in large part to do with the increase of in-major courses being offered by professors in both an on-campus and online setting.
“We are looking for opportunities to identify courses that are major specific to help students progress towards a degree, specifically at the upper division,” Dean said. “As well as courses that students may have difficulty enrolling in in on their first attempt.”
While total on campus enrollment by current students has not increased significantly, online enrollment for summer courses has increased by about 300 students. Moreover, summer session two enrollment for both on-campus and online campus is still open. Michael Herndon, director of university summer sessions, is predicting a further increase in students.
A difficulty that arises when trying to get more students to stay on campus is finding professors to teach over the summer as well, a time most often spent working on research. Herndon said that professors are slowly starting to find ways to include more and more teaching time during their summer schedules in a way that does not impede their research process.
“A lot of faculty are seeing that they can teach in the summer either online or face-to-face and they can still reach their tenure and promotional goals to conduct research,” he said. “For example, a lot of faculty will teach during summer one. Then during summer two, they may not teach, but they may work on their own research.”
As a way to compensate and make it easier on themselves, many professors are moving their classes online, according to Dean. However, Scott Hendricks, associate professor for the department of engineering science and mechanics – who is teaching on campus this summer – says that students do not benefit the same from online classes and, as a result, he will never teach that way.
“The students need to have a live person to talk to and to answer questions,” Hendricks said. “It’s very frustrating to try and learn online.”
Although not included in his normal nine-month salary, Hendricks has been teaching over the summer every year he has been at Tech. Faculty who wish to teach over the summer have to volunteer, and then can be eligible for pay. Some professors also use research grants as their salary over the summer.
Along with current Tech students, the campus is expecting a large increase of students on campus with the launch of the Summer Academy, a pre-college immersion orientation which allows incoming freshmen to take two courses that are set up together as a module.
For example, there is a nutrition and life science track where students can take principles of biology lecture and lab along with human nutrition and foods. Dean said that the courses are chosen together and are designed to have overlapping concepts.
The Academy is modeled after Penn State’s Learning Edge Academic Program, a successful pre-college program for 18 years. According to Dean, students who completed LEAP before entering their first fall semester were more likely to graduate with honors, attend graduate school and become more successful overall. She hopes to bring that level to success to Tech via the Summer Academy.