Online Summer Teaching Considerations

Provides pedagogical advice for instructors teaching online summer courses.


Shortened terms like those in the Winterim or Summer semesters can present special challenges to all instructors but especially for instructors teaching online courses. Furthermore, because Winterim and Summer courses are convenient for students who choose to take classes while at home or away from campus, the online format is increasingly popular among our students.

In a review of the literature on online “accelerated learning” or “compressed courses,” we discovered that many of the elements that make an online course successful also make a shortened summer course successful. In other words, a good compressed course (online, blended, or face-to-face) will include the following elements:
  • Backward design focusing on learning objectives and outcomes
  • Student-centered, active learning
  • Frequent, low-stakes assessments
  • Prompt instructor responses and feedback
  • Instructor interactivity and participation
  • Built-in student feedback mechanisms

5 Key Questions for Designing a Summer Online Course

  1. What content and activities are most vital for meeting the learning objectives?
  2. How can you take advantage of the opportunity for more continuity and focus in a shortened course?
  3. How will you determine the appropriateness of the course requirements and its implications for your own workload?
  4. How can you help your students to adjust their expectations for the shortened course and manage their time more effectively?
  5. How will you include opportunities for instructor-to-student and student-to-student interaction?
More specifically, here are some strategies that can might help you in redesigning for your summer online course:
  • Redesign the course specifically for the shortened term
  • Consult with colleagues who have taught summer courses in your discipline (Kops)
  • Focus on more complex and important topics earlier in the course (Kops)
  • Take advantage of the increased opportunity for continuity and focus (Kops)
  • Develop the course completely before the semester begins to focus on interactivity
  • Manage expectations about the course specifically in terms of the shortened format
  • Set aside time to work on the course; stay focused
  • Include more opportunities for instructor interaction (virtual office hours, discussions, etc.)
Special thanks to Molly Baker (Sauk Valley Community College) and Michael Starenko (Rochester Institute of Technology) for the resources!

Bibliography on Teaching Compressed Courses*

  • Anastasi, J. S. (2007). Methods and techniques: Full-semester and abbreviated summer courses. Teaching of Psychology, 34(1), 19-22.
  • Arrey, L. N. (2009, January 1). Organic chemistry: Intensive format or traditional format. Summer Academe. Retrieved May 2, 2011 from
  • Crowe, A., Hyun, E., & Kretovics, M. (2005). Reflections on summer teaching: Academic rigor or curriculum light? Summer Academe, 5, 7-20.
  • Daniel, E. L. (2000). A review of time-shortened courses across disciplines. College Student Journal, 298-308.
  • DiGregorio, K. (1997-1998). Getting a lot of education: College students’ out-of- classroom interactions with faculty and the implications of summer session. Summer Academe, 2, 7-27.
  • Doane, D. J., & Pusser, B. (2005). Entrepreneurial organization at the academic core: The case of summer school. New Directions for Higher Education, No. 129 (Spring), 43-54.
  • Ho, H., & Karagiannidis, V. (2007). Summer school teaching and learning: Some thoughts from undergraduate business students. College Quarterly, 10(2), 1-12.
  • Homeyer, L., & Brown, C. (2002). The intensive three-week interim semester: Is it effective? TCA Journal, 30, 34-42.
  • Kops, B. (2009, January 1). Best practices: Teaching in summer session. Summer Academe. Retrieved May 2, 2011 from
  • Lee, V. S. (2002). Teaching in intensive course formats. Invited presentation at the annual meetings of the North American Association of Summer Schools, Baltimore, MD, November.
  • Martin, H. (1997-1998). Student achievement in summer session versions of traditionally semester-length courses. Summer Academe, 2, 63-75.
  • Martin, H., & Culver, K. (2009, January 1). To concentrate, to intensify, or to shorten? The issue of the short intensive course in summer sessions. Summer Academe. Retrieved May 2, 2011 from p52166
  • McLeod, S., Horn, H., & Haswell, R. (2005). Accelerated classes and the writers at the bottom: A local assessment story. College Composition and Communication, 56, 556- 580.
  • Peca, K. (1996-1997). Intensive instruction: Lessons from the field. Summer Academe, 1, 57-62.
  • Scott, P. A. (2003). Attributes of high-quality intensive courses. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, No. 97 (Spring), 29-38.
  • Scott, P. A., & Conrad, C. F. (1992). A critique of intensive courses and an agenda for research. In J. C. Smart (Ed.), Higher education: Handbook of theory and research, VIII. New York: Agathon.
  • Seamon, M. (2004). Short- and long-term differences in instructional effectiveness between intensive and semester-length courses. Teacher College Record, 106, 852-874.
  • Van Scyoc, L. J., & Gleason, J. (1993). Traditional or intensive course lengths? A comparison of outcomes in economics learning. Journal of Economic Education, 24(1), 15-22.
*Courtesy of Linda Nilson from Clemson University

Keywords:online, summer, accelerated, pedagogy   Doc ID:91908
Owner:Dylan B.Group:UW-Milwaukee Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning
Created:2019-05-22 10:24 CDTUpdated:2019-05-22 10:26 CDT
Sites:UW-Milwaukee Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning
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