UW-Madison expanding online course offerings for summer term

The University of Wisconsin-Madison announced this week it has expanded summer online course offerings so students who return to their hometowns for jobs or who have internships elsewhere can stay on track to complete a degree without disrupting other summer activities.

“The students asked for flexibility and we responded,” said Jeffrey Russell, vice provost of lifelong learning and dean of continuing studies. “One benefit of studying during the summer is students then can move toward their graduation goal faster and ultimately join the workforce sooner. Making that transition from student to salary-earning professional is an important goal.”

UW-Madison is offering 100 online courses this summer, up from 64 last summer and 49 the summer before

Online offerings include courses that fulfill general education requirements, such as introductory statistics and speech composition, as well as advanced and graduate-level courses.

General education requirement courses are the focus of the summer online expansion, according to UW-Madison Summer Term Director Sarah Barber.

Those courses tend to have bottleneck enrollments during the traditional academic year because they’re in great demand. A summer option helps relieves that bottleneck, she said. It also helps students who fall behind after switching majors.

UW-Madison’s College of Engineering ┬ádeveloped three online summer term courses specifically to meet the demand for introductory engineering courses in statics, dynamics, and mechanics of materials. Students from other colleges may enroll in these courses, as well.

These new offerings fulfill the basic requirements for many engineering students in the U.S., according to Associate Dean Steven Cramer. “We think these courses will fill easily, as they are prerequisites to many advanced classes.”

While summer online courses are for a set term — three to eight weeks, depending on the course — students can set their own daily schedules for completing the work.

“Online learning students are most successful if they have a structure around their learning,” such as going online at the same time every day to participate in class, Barber said. Some online classes have more frequent quizzes and tests to make sure students are engaged, she said.

Students should be aware that online classes are not less rigorous than face-to-face classes, she said. A majority of online classes are taught by tenured faculty, though some are supported by teaching assistants, she said.

The university advises students to take a summer courseload of one credit per week. In other words, students should not take a total of more than 3 credits for a three-week class term. Students may take 9 credits for the more common eight-week term, though, she said.

There’s no indication on a college transcript that the class was taken online, and the cost is the same as a face-to-face class, according to Barber.

That’s not true for all campuses. An additional fee of $200 to $300 is added for summer online course at UW-Milwaukee, for example.

Including both online courses and those offered in UW-Madison classrooms, more than 1,000 academic offerings are available during summer term, in sessions ranging from three to eight weeks in length.

About 12,000 students enrolled in summer term last year, earning about 52,000 credits. UW-Madison hopes to increase summer enrollment to about 20,000 over the next 10 years, with much of the growth coming from online courses.

Current UW students can enroll in Summer Term as they would for fall and spring semesters. Students from other universities can take summer courses at UW-Madison and transfer those credits back to their home institutions. But they must be admitted to UW-Madison first as special students.

Summer term enrollment for current degree-seeking students started March 31.

Students from other colleges should make sure through an adviser at their home school that if the credit is to be applied toward a major, it will be accepted for the major, rather than just being transferred as a general credit.

For information, visit summer.wisc.edu.

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