[Fresh] summer courses

Kelly Eastland (kelly.eastland@villanova.edu)
Wed, 07 May 2003 11:37:20 -0400

Summer courses at Villanova University
Interview with Dr. Robert Stokes, Associate Dean for Part-time Studies

Fresh@News: Most of the parents and friends of the class of 2006 know a bit about
Villanova's programs in the fall and spring. What about the summer programs? Are they
relevant to the class as well?

Dr. Stokes: Villanova's undergraduate program is designed so that everything a student needs
can be completed during the fall and spring terms, and many of our students graduate without
ever taking a summer course. But sometimes students switch majors or programs, which also
puts them a little behind where they should be as far as the number of courses they have
taken. In other cases students get behind because they have dropped or failed a course
during the year. These students usually get themselves caught up by taking an extra course
or two in the summer. Some students also take a few summer courses so they can lighten
their load during the fall or spring.

Fresh@News: What is the summer program like?

Dr. Stokes: Each summer we offer a mix of about 388 undergraduate courses, spanning all of
our undergraduate colleges. Generally, students say that they enjoy the summer courses. The
classes are usually small and everyone is a bit more relaxed. Students and faculty members
really get to know each other.

Fresh@News. Suppose my son or daughter needs to take some extra courses, but also needs to
save money by living at home and working during the summer?

Dr. Stokes: This is a common concern. We have tried to help solve this problem by
developing our summer distance learning program. These are courses which students can take
over the Internet during the summer. The advantage is that the student can live at home and
take a Villanova course taught by a Villanova faculty member. Since these are full
Villanova courses, students don't have to worry about whether the credits will transfer or
not. Students will need to
have access to a computer and an Internet provider (such as AOL). The courses use the web,
e-mail, chat-rooms, and a number of other recent developments in educational technology.

Fresh@News: Suppose parents have a high school student at home who wants a taste of college
work. Would these courses be appropriate for high school students?

Dr. Stokes: Our distance learning classes are also open to qualified high school students,
so if you have a high school age student at home he or she might want to get a head start on
college by taking a college level course. We'd be happy to see that child apply to
Villanova too, but the course should be transferable to virtually any other university.

Fresh@News: What are some of the distance courses we will be offering this summer?

Dr. Stokes: This coming year we'll be offering over 35 summer distance education courses,
including organizational psychology, biology, nursing and management information systems.
The complete list of courses is available at http://www.parttime.villanova.edu.

Fresh@News: How do the students like these courses? Don't they miss the connection with the
faculty member?

Dr. Stokes: At Villanova we believe in small classes with a lot of personal contact between
faculty members and students, and we try to preserve this in our distance education
classes. Usually the class sizes are small (20 or under), and, surprisingly, the students
get to know each other quite well. We find that some students say they participate more in
class discussions in a distance education class than they do in a regular class. Even when
they don't ever see each other in person, the students can get to know each other very
well. I taught a distance education psychology course the past three summers. The
students were extremely enthusiastic about the course. At the end of one summer, they
decided to arrange a dinner party so they could get to meet each other face to face. In my
distance classes, I have had students enrolled who were physically located in South America,
Puerto Rico, Massachusetts, Nevada, Michigan and even nearby in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Fresh@News: What happens in a given week for students taking these distance classes?

Dr. Stokes: In my class, I met with the class in small groups (3-5 students) to discuss
specific questions related to the class content covered in the textbook as well as a
streaming video lecture that I sent to all students through the class web site. The
streaming video lectures are designed so students could hear my voice and see slides dealing
with the content I was lecturing about. The students took a timed on-line quiz, met in chat
rooms and worked together in groups to write a group report and had the opportunity to meet
with me during my on-line office hours. Students liked the structure of the class, the
amount of course content covered and the mix of class sessions and group activities. They
were able to choose class session times that were convenient to their summer work schedule.
I was impressed the students' comfort level with technology and chat rooms. I should not
have been surprised, since my daughters spend more time on-line sending messages than on the
phone.

Fresh@News: Do you expect that our students will also be doing distance education courses
during the fall and spring?

Dr. Stokes: At Villanova, we are mostly interested in distance education as a service to
part-time students, summer school students, and adult learners, but for our full-time
undergraduates, our main emphasis is on in-class education. Of course many of our fall and
winter courses do integrate the latest educational technologies, and make heavy use of
computers and the Internet. We increasingly rely on some of the same technologies used by
distance education courses, but we also want to maintain the face-to-face element. There
may be some opportunities for distance education in the summer, but this will be limited.

Fresh@News: What about the Summer Business Institute? What is that all about?

Dr. Stokes. We find that many of our non business students also want to get some business
background. We have a regular business minor, which is open to all Villanova students
(except those who are already in our College of Commerce and Finance), and many students
take advantage of it. But we also find that some students are so busy in the fall and
spring that they cannot fit in the business courses. Other students only get interested in
business when they are closer to graduation and find that they no longer have time to
complete a business minor. To help these students we created the Summer Business
Institute. It is an intensive eleven week exposure to business approaches and methods.
Students get an introduction to accounting, marketing, economics, management, and finance.
It is like basic training in the military. It is extremely intense, and students learn a
great deal very quickly. Most of these students are upper division students rather than
freshmen, so this is something for parents to keep in mind for a year or two down the road,
not so much for this summer.

Fresh@News: What advice do you have for parents of members of the class of 2006?

Dr. Stokes: As long as everything is proceeding normally, parents don't need to be too
concerned about summer programs, and the main energy should be making sure that students get
interesting and challenging summer jobs. (My former work was in Career Counseling, so I
know how valuable summer jobs can be in building a resume). Summer courses become important
when the student makes a change in program, drops a course, or otherwise gets behind, or
when the student suddenly gets interested in a career that requires a business background or
other courses that were not taken during the regular program. At that point, you want to
make sure that you and your student are aware of Villanova's summer programs, on campus, in
distance education, and in summer institutes. Some parents may also be interested in taking
distance education
courses themselves. These courses are designed for part-time students and working people,
so they may be of interest to parents as well.

At any rate, the place to go for information about summer session classes including distance
education classes is http://www.parttime.villanova.edu/ (or call 610-519-4300).

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