Not too many years ago, the concept of summer school seemed, for most of us, an abomination—some unholy punishment that would disrupt the sacrament of summer vacation. Now, however, in our financially-deprived maturity, summer classes are a convenient means to make up class credit or fulfill requirements for graduation.
“I’m taking summer classes at Grand Rapids Community College so that I can get my degree and student teach all in eight semesters,” said Jacqueline Nowak, Grand Rapids sophmore.
According to Erik Achenbach, associate registrar, Albion students can now take advantage of four different options for summer classes:
1. Classroom classes here at Albion
2. Online Albion courses
3. Classroom classes from outside institutions like other colleges, two-year institutions or universities
4. Online classes from outside institutions
Achenbach says there are four reasons students would take summer classes at other institutions: to gain units for graduation (maybe you had a 3-unit semester due to some labs or you dropped a class…or four), to make mode requirements (as long as transferred classes are direct equivalents), to get category class credit or to fulfill major or minor requirements.
The latter two options, Achenbach says, are only to be used in a pinch. While transferring major or minor requirements is based on communication with Albion’s academic departments, getting category credit requires a little more work (see sidebar).
An important change in the summer school and transfer credit realm this year, however, is the college’s allowing online coursework. While common at most other institutions, this summer will be Albion’s first semester offering and accepting online classes. According to Achenbach, this latest leap forward represents a logical step into the 21st century for the college.
“Online classes are a reality nationwide, and I think that if a college wants to progress, they should fall in line and at least have some offering that would benefit students,” Achenback said. “I think it’s a really good move for the college.”
As for Albion’s online course offering, Drew Dunham, associate dean of academic affairs and registrar, says that the decision to allow such a program emerged out of a desire to offer students more options. The number of online offerings this summer, however, will be limited due to the fact that this is a pilot program.
“Instead of putting out an entire big list of courses, we decided to just offer four [Intro to Human Communication, Medical Terminology, Functions, and Public Policy Analysis] to see if there was some student interest,” Dunham said. “I think it’s a great option for students, and I hope students will take advantage of it.”
Whether or not the online offering will continue or expand in the future remains unknown. According to Achenbach, the platform will be evaluated after the summer and the college will decide then whether to try again or not.
Concerning the acceptance of online coursework from other institutions, however, Drew said that the logic was rather simple.
“It’s the same course as they would teach in the classroom and taught by the same professor, it’s just a different methodology,” Dunham said. “So why should there be a difference in accepting it in transfer?”
While the college will now accept online coursework from outside institutions, Drew hopes that students will take advantage of Albion’s online classes, despite the extra cost, because he believes they will offer the additional educational value students expect from normal classes.
“I feel like our [online] classes will be at the same level as any other Albion course and will challenge the students just as much,” Dunham said. “If students want to do their Albion courses here, great—if they want to transfer them in from somewhere else, well, that’s their decision.”
Ultimately, the ability to transfer in online coursework, either from summer classes or previously attended institutions, reflects a movement on the college’s part to accommodate students of a changing world.
“Students were the ones who requested it,” Achenbach said. “In my five years here in this office, I get the question every year around March and April: students would say ‘I’m going to take this class online,’ and I have to say ‘sorry we don’t accept that.’ But now I can say ‘Yes.’”
How-to: Petitioning for Category Credit
To petition for category credit, students must produce a page-length write-up about why they think the class meets the specific category class requirements and provide a syllabus for the class. Achenbach advises students to do this as early as possible to give the appropriate committees time to review the petitions and make decisions.
“Students need to realize that those committees that look over those petitions do not meet in the summer,” Achenbach said. “They’re not here, just like you guys. If it’s not approved by the time you leave and you still plan on taking the class, then it may not be approved when you get back. So there may be some disappointment and some risk-taking involved.”
Photo courtesy of GreatDegree.com