Tips to Condense Your Courses for the Summer Term

Books and sunglasses near the beach
By Catherine Dowman and Jennifer Antoon

Summer course planning is underway. For many faculty, the challenge is taking a full 15-week course and condensing it – effectively – into a 6-week or 12-week summer semester. The FIU Online Insider asked seasoned professors to offer tips on how to survive the stress of this challenge. Below are their suggestions, followed by tips to prepare your course for summer.

 

Ricardo M. Gonzalez, Senior Instructor and Faculty Academic Adviser

Department of Global and Sociocultural Studies

“I follow the mantra less is more

Ricardo says, “Since there is some overlap in the topics covered, these are combined to cover all material reviewed in a regular term.” He goes on to say, “I follow the mantra: Less is more, which is also tied to my previous comment.  It is best to cover less material to make sure students understand and apply this knowledge correctly and, most importantly, in their social and professional life.

 

Jamie Flexon, Associate Professor

Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice

“Take a measured approach” 

Jaime has been teaching online for over fifteen years and even longer in person. She says, “Either way, you have to be attentive to the idea that no matter what the weekly duration of the term is; you are teaching a course that you have designed that meets a certain number of credits.”

 

Nico Rose, Instructor and Associate Director of Academic Program Management

Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management

“the sole focus is the core course content.”

Nico says, “For shorter terms, the sole focus is the core course content. There is some content that could be covered through different instructional methods based upon a prerequisite skill analysis for the course and content level.”

 

Our Tips: Think Effective and Efficient

  • Use the modular approach rather than weekly approach

Instead of thinking in terms of chapters and weeks, reset your perspective of the course in terms of skills you want students to master and the topics you need to cover. Jaime says, “this holds for regular terms, prepping for a truncated semester will require being very attentive to adding activities for activities sake and how you can help your student succeed.”

  • Break content into themes

Ricardo discusses combining overlapping material for an abbreviated term. Jamie focuses on “thematic cohesion within modules, etc. In other words, how you break up the course has to make sense with the different themes you are covering and should approximate that required for the longer term.”

  • “Don’t eliminate learning objectives – just refocus on the delivery of them.”

Review the learning objectives in your course and make sure the abbreviated version of the course still meets them. Reflect on if the assignments in the course are helping students meet those objectives. Nico suggests focusing on core content and making sure the material in the abbreviated course directly aligns with the course goals.

  • Consolidate quizzes, discussions, or other assignments

Take a look what assignments are needed for each module. Maybe the course previously had an assignment for each week. Jaime reflects, “we tend to want to throw busy work at online students because we have beliefs or insecurities about it or try to make them “match up” to in-person classes (which oftentimes is based on belief than reality). Make sure what you are doing in the course “actually serves the student learning the material that you want them to learn.” Nico’s advice reinforces this point, “Modifying/combining assignments in a manner that assures all course objectives are still met, but in a more efficient manner.”

  • Stay ahead, the pace is fast

Students needs tend to differ in shorter course. Nico’s tips: “Stay in communication with the students – the course moves fast, so we need to stay more engaged and “on top” of the students so they don’t fall behind.” Jaime echoes his sentiment saying, “Survival is just as important- no matter what modality- for the student and instructor.”

 

Additional Resources:

 

Jennifer Antoon is an instructional designer for FIU Online. After studying adult learning theories in her master’s program and implementing them during her time as an adjunct professor, she became interested in discovering and creating learning activities that engage and motivate adults.

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