The Operation of Summer 2020 Courses in the Midst of COVID-19

by, Nicole Fitzsimmons, Asst. News Editor

Manhattan College’s commitment to safety has paired with their strategy to grow the enrollment for undergraduate summer courses. During the summer of 2020, all classes will be conducted online or remotely with a discount for all undergraduate students.

In an email sent out to the student body from Assistant Registrar for Scheduling Annie-Laurie McKenney on April 6, it is stated that all Summer 2020 classes will be held either online or in a remote learning environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also stated that tuition has been discounted 30% for all undergraduate classes, excluding School of Continuing Professional Studies classes.

Over the past several years, the college has been working to increase their summer offerings through various new programs, such as new study abroad short courses, and experimenting with different discounts. The discount is in line with these efforts and promotes the idea of offering more courses this year in hopes of providing students with more opportunities during this chaotic summer in particular, says Provost William Clyde.

“Summer enrollments have been rising significantly at Manhattan for the past several years and we hope that will continue this year. It seems like the summer plans of students (and everyone) may be disrupted, with many work and internship opportunities in question.  Given that, this summer may be a good opportunity for students to catch up or get ahead with classes. Since registration is ongoing, we will have a better picture once each session begins as to how this Summer’s enrollment numbers compare to those of previous years,” he wrote to the Quad.

A major difference during this year’s summer classes will be the manner in which they are conducted. In the past, most classes offered in the summer have been held in the traditional, on-campus format (two days a week, 3 hours a day for 7 weeks) fashion. There have been courses that have been previously designated as solely online classes, which were first offered in 2012 when the efforts to expand the summer program first started. Those classes will meet in their normal format. However, courses that have previously been traditional on-campus courses will now meet remotely. There is a distinction between the types of online learning that are occurring: online classes and remote learning.

Online courses, noted as ONL on the Self Service website, have no weekly scheduled meeting times. Students will be able to complete work independently by following the course schedule. 

In the document released by Manhattan College titled “Information for Summer 2020 Courses” it states, “The instructor may or may not offer live video conferencing sessions on an occasional basis but individual meetings with the instructor, or collaborative group work may also be required.”

Remote learning courses, noted as REM on the Self Service website, have regularly scheduled weekly meeting times that students will attend via videoconferencing. The document also states that, “These sessions will occur at the same scheduled time(s) each week as listed on the official course schedule posted on Self-Service. Live class video sessions will be a minimum of two hours each week, not more than two hours per day, and not more than six hours each week. In addition to the live class sessions, students will be expected to complete work independently by following the course schedule. Individual meetings with the instructor, or collaborative group work may also be required.”

However, it is important to note that the document opens by stating “Both online and remote courses can be completed from any location as long as the student has the necessary hardware, software, and a reliable internet connection.” There will be no on-campus instruction during Summer 2020, and other programs are still up in the air. Since no course labs will take place at Manhattan in the summer, it is hard to distinguish plans for different programs.

“It’s too early to know whether research labs for things like the Jasper Summer Research Scholars program will be available or whether the residence halls might be open for those or other programs.  Those decisions will probably be made in May,” says Clyde.

Junior civil engineering major Matthew Sweeney, with expected graduation in May 2021, is planning on taking the courses Steel Design and Structural Analysis II, both offered during Session I of the online summer course schedule. In an email to the Quad, he expresses his appreciation for the 30% tuition discount, and states that it will help relieve the burden a bit. Furthermore, the discount has even played a role in encouraging him to take another class and achieve a minor during the summer.

“I have taken summer classes in the past and I think that professors are currently figuring out how to hold their classes online, so hopefully summer classes shouldn’t be prohibitively difficult because of the online format,” says Sweeney.

Having taken summer classes in the past, he is no stranger to the usual operation and nature of the courses. The current procedures of online classes and labs during the Spring 2020 semester may not be truly representative of how students are currently learning online.

“I think that summer classes are sped up as it is, so I’m concerned how the online format might enable speeding up the pace of summer classes even more. Therefore I think that summer classes will be slightly different than the current online classes,” says Sweeney.

To ease the stress and grant equal opportunities to all students, Provost Clyde told the Quad that the new grading system of HP/LP/NC has been extended into the Summer 2020 sessions. 

“I think generally there is a more laid-back approach when it comes to the summer classes. I’ve appreciated the discount that they’ve announced, that is some much needed accommodation,” says Sweeney.

With all of this being said and also established in the virtual Academic Town Hall on April 17, the operation of Summer 2020 classes have been curated carefully by administration to give students the most fair opportunities to excel in their studies during an unpredictable time. Graduate programs and the SCPS have their own strategies and pricing structures, which is why they are exempt from the tuition discount as stated in the initial email from Annie-Laurie McKenney.

“Safety is the College’s top priority so this will factor into future plans,” says Clyde.