Summer courses at Villanova University
Interview with Dr. Robert Stokes, Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs
Fresh@News: Most of the parents and friends of the class of 2011 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 a student 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 seven 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 want to get some business background. The Villanova School of Business (VSB) offers a traditional business minor; students take a number of business courses over the course of their time at Villanova. Students must apply to the program and I understand that admission is competitive. But for many students it is more convenient to pursue a business minor during the summer. Other students don’t realize their interest in the business arena until they are closer to graduation when it may be too late to begin work toward a traditional business minor. VSB created the Summer Business Institute (the SBI) a number of years ago. SBI is a rigorous nine week program where students learn the basics of business through a broad range of integrated courses like Measuring Financial Performance and cross functional topics like Effective and Ethical Leadership Strategies. Some students enroll in SBI after freshman years; others after they graduate.
Fresh@News: What advice do you have for parents of members of the class of 2011?
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).