Before the pandemic, the direction of listings (up or down) in the spring and fall was generally also the direction of listings in the summer. When enrollments increased, they increased with the seasons; when it fell, it fell all year round.
The pandemic has severed the connection between summers and what we sometimes call “long” semesters. As spring and fall have fallen, summer (and the January recess) has increased. This year, the beginning of summer is down and the end of summer is up.
Your guess is as good as mine.
The other big disconnect has been preference by modality. Over the most recent fall and spring, we have seen a general trend towards in-person classes. But this year, summer demand for online courses has been proportionally higher than expected. I guess it has to do with the employee market for summer jobs, especially here, where summer tourism is a major industry even in normal years, let alone a labor shortage year work. Asynchronous online classes are easier to manage when changing part-time hours.
The connections between summer and long semesters can be instructive. For example, the summer sessions are shorter: the first and third sessions last six weeks each, with the second 10-week section connecting the two. (Long semesters are 15 weeks.) The idea is that in the summer, students take fewer courses at a time but spend more hours per week in each.
The results are consistent: summer courses have higher pass rates. (January classes have the highest pass rates of all.) That’s even true if we screen out “visiting” students who are enrolled in four-year schools and take summer classes with us in the intend to transfer them again. I even had the IR office compare the GPAs of the spring and fall students with the GPAs of our own summer students to see if the higher pass rates were the result of self – selection of students. The GPAs were the same. The main difference was having more time for fewer tasks.
Before the pandemic, the early summer session looked a bit like the spring session. He relied heavily on full-time faculty, who could earn extra money teaching in late May and June and still had July and August to do other things. The departments were often still buzzing until June. Early summer always attracts a lot of full-time faculty, but with so much of the summer spent online, the vibe on campus is noticeably calmer.
One of the best classes I have ever taught was a summer class filled with honors students from area high schools. They couldn’t even pretend to be jaded by many older students, so they jumped in with both feet. It was glorious. A class like the US government is often as much about dispelling myths as teaching, but thankfully they weren’t cynical, so we were able to cut to the chase. And because we met four days a week, the readings were fresh enough in their minds that class discussions didn’t require much revision. Yes, the classroom was sometimes too hot, but it was worth it.
I don’t know if the new disconnect between summer enrollment and semester enrollment will be the new normal, or if it’s still pandemic-related turmoil running through the system. I hope it’s the last, but it’s too early to tell.
Worldly and wise readers, do you see similar fluctuations elsewhere?