[Fresh] Summer courses at Villanova

Kelly Eastland (kelly.eastland@villanova.edu)
Mon, 18 Mar 2002 10:38:26 -0500

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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 2005 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 270 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. This past summer, I had students in my
class 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 eight week exposure to business approaches and methods.
Students get an introduction to accounting, marketing, economics,
management, and advertising. 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 2005?

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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