While many students quarantined at home in March and April, uncertain of their summer plans, IU sent out emails nudging students to knock out some credits and take a summer class or two. On March 26, Provost Lauren Robel announced all summer classes were going to be online and could be completed from the convenience of students’ homes.
Many students took the university up on the offer. Summer enrollment is up by 28% compared to 2019, according to the senior associate registrar Michael Carrol, who also said the overall number of classes is down 13%. He said he did not have any official reasoning behind these numbers.
Math professor Jee Koh has been teaching an online calculus class for four or five years and his summer class is usually capped at 60 students. But with all in-person classes canceled, he now has a summer class of 144 students.
Koh’s online course is accelerated, squeezing a 15-week class into an 8-week period during the first session of summer classes from May 12through July 2. He said students’ biggest challenge is keeping up with the work and his biggest challenge is keeping them engaged and learning.
“Math is like learning a language,” Koh said. “There are many new concepts to learn. If you put it off, it just accumulates.”
Through his years of online teaching experience, Koh has learned to break things up into bite-sized chunks for students taking online courses so students don’t feel overwhelmed. He keeps his lectures short and focuses on only one subject at a time.
He also said it takes more effort to keep students engaged in an online course, and having over double the students he normally has will keep him and his seven assistant instructors busy.
“You are frequently contacting them, pushing them, motivating them to keep going,” Koh said.
Media School professor Galen Clavio has been teaching an online summer class on sports social media for a few years and has also learned to adjust his teaching style.
“You have to have more energy,” Clavio said. “You have to maintain students’ attention.”
Clavio also has a larger class size this summer with 25 students instead of his usual 18. He has learned that having live, video-conference lectures is sometimes important but he also records lectures to give students more flexibility.
“Keep in mind Zoom fatigue is a real thing,” he said.
Clavio said he also keeps his lectures short and uses the Canvas discussion page heavily to make sure students are reading the material and participating.
“A lot of times students feel more comfortable commenting instead of raising their hand,” Clavio said.
Even though Koh has taught online classes for years, he still had to adjust his class slightly to meet the fully-online requirements. Previously, he would require students to take exams in person at a local university or library where they lived. Now, exams are all online.
When the math department first asked Koh to create an online calculus class years ago, they weren’t sure what the demand would be like.
Now, as the coronavirus cancels in-person classes indefinitely, classes designed for online learning are more important than ever, and the end to spring semester was a taste of what the whole summer will be like for students and professors.
“If they haven’t done it before, they’ve gotten a lot of practice over the past six weeks,” Clavio said.