Online summer classes are a popular choice among Texas Tech students who do not want a strict learning environment. As people gravitate toward online learning, overall summer enrollment has grown.

Recent counts of summer enrollment for online courses show that online course enrollment continues to expand and provides a viable solution for students during the summer months as an alternative to in-person classes.

Melanie Hart, vice provost of Tech eLearning and Academic Partnerships, said the online enrollment numbers for Summer 2019 are preliminary and based off a duplicated head count, which means each class in which a student is enrolled is counted once.

Regarding the preliminary numbers for online enrollment, Hart said there are about 18,000 course enrollments and close to 56,000 semester credit hours for this entire summer term. She said Summer I makes up about 12,000 course enrollments and 37,000 SCH, and Summer II makes up about 6,500 course enrollments and 19,000 SCH.

“There are quite a few enrollments during the summer,” she said. 

In addition to being very high, Hart said this summer’s SCH were very close to matching the previous fall and spring semesters’ SCH. 

“This year, we have roughly 67,000 to 70,000 semester credit hours that were generated in the fall and again in the spring,” she said. “You can see that the summer is maybe a little bit less than the fall or the spring, but it’s very close. We’ve seen that trend over the last couple of years, so we do see a trend of more students taking more courses online.”

Regarding online enrollment trends from the summer of 2018 to this summer, Hart said there was an increase, as there were 16,884 online course enrollments and 50,366 online SCH last summer.

For the entire university last summer, which includes online and face-to-face class enrollment, Hart said there were 34,706 course enrollments and 104,459 SCH. She said a big portion of Summer 2018 students were taking classes online.

“So, about half of them are online during the summer,” Hart said regarding the amount of online course enrollments out of the total number of course enrollments last summer. “During the regular term, it’s not that high, but during the summer, it is.”

Despite the number of students enrolling in online summer classes, there could be a variety of factors that impact the availability of online courses and a student’s willingness to enroll for these courses.

In eLearning, Hart said the department’s staff helps Tech faculty implement online courses.

“What we do in eLearning is we provide the instructional designers that can help faculty put their courses online,” Hart said regarding how the departments across Tech provide the courses. “We don’t actually offer the courses.”

Regardless, Hart said there is an increase of faculty putting courses and programs online. 

“We’ve seen this trend of increasing the number of courses being offered, number of programs being offered over the last five years,” she said. 

In addition to helping Tech faculty who are already implementing online learning throughout their courses, eLearning may also benefit faculty who want to take the first steps to provide their courses in a digital format.

Justin Louder, associate vice provost for eLearning and Academic Partnerships, said eLearning also provides services to make more courses available online.

“The university and through the Office of the Provost and this division, we have provided opportunities and funding for faculty to put more classes online,” he said. “Some departments offer additional financial aid for students, especially in the summertime. That covers students taking online classes.”

Despite the availability of certain online classes, especially during the summer terms, students may have different reasons for choosing online summer classes.

“One, it allows the student to go home,” Louder said. “By taking a couple of classes online, it kind of moves their graduation date forward.”

Whether it be because of a study abroad or internship, Louder said some students will utilize online classes during the summer to move forward with their degree program without having to take too much time out of their day to visit campus. He said this is one factor that influences the increase in online summer enrollment each year.

Regarding students who go back home to attend a local community college for the summer, Louder said some issues could arise when wanting to transfer credits to Tech. He said these problems are not present when a student takes advantage of online summer classes at Tech.

“By taking a class here at Tech, they don’t have to worry about transfers, they don’t have to worry about a class not transferring and it fits right into their degree plan, and they continue to move forward,” Louder said. “I think that’s another reason.”

Jason Hale, director of recruitment at Tech Undergraduate Admissions, said there are other ways students can benefit from online programs during the summer. He said incoming freshman can get a head start on their degree program.

“That is certainly attractive to those students,” he said regarding online programs in the summer. “They can see the benefit of going and starting in the summer.”

Despite freshmen benefiting from online summer courses, Hale said transfer students, which is another demographic that typically start during the summer terms, may prefer the face-to-face classes.

“If you’re a freshman student and you’re coming to Texas Tech and you plan to come in the fall, maybe taking an online class in the summer is good,” he said. “Transfer students, they do like the online option, but a lot of them are ready to get on campus and get into their programs.”

When browsing online summer classes, a student may also consider what classes they need to progress in their degree program.

“It’s more about the course selection than the timing of the summer,” Hale said. “And of course, every student is different.”

Regardless of one’s preferences toward online or face-to-face classes during the summer, Hale said there are a variety of campus resources that influence students’ decisions to start in the summer and their choice of classes.

“One of the things that I think has helped attract students to the summer program is a combined effort across Scholarships, Financial Aid, Undergraduate Admissions to really promote students starting and getting some of those credits during the summer,” he said. 

Whether it be a student’s degree program, the expanded online course selection or the ability to continue taking courses anywhere, there are multiple factors influencing the growth of online summer enrollment at Tech. 

“Is there a trend of increasing? Absolutely,” Hart said. “We’re seeing it across all the semesters, as well as during the summer.”

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