Summer session joins the Zoom room

Academic buildings sit almost completely empty as instruction shifts online. ETHAN TAN/FOGHORN

Mardy Harding 

Staff Writer 

Editor’s note: At 4 p.m. on April 9, USF announced via email that, due to the likely extension of shelter-in-place policies through July 1, all summer courses will be conducted entirely online. The email stated that information about programs that typically begin in the summer, such as the Muscat Scholars program, is “forthcoming.”

The contents of this story, including all quotes and interviews, were finalized prior to the announcement.

USF’s classrooms will remain empty through at least the first half of the summer, the University announced in an email on April 1. The email said all summer courses up until June 29 will be conducted in the same remote learning format that current spring courses have adjusted to. A decision about the second half of summer sessions will be announced on or around May 1, according to Jeff Hamrick, chair of the “Summer 2020” committee and vice provost for institutional budget, planning, and analytics. While professors have already had to transition to online classes for the spring, other opportunities will open up for students who normally wouldn’t be able to physically come to campus for summer sessions. 

In an email to the Foghorn, Hamrick said the decision to move the first half of the summer online had a secondary objective of aiding the University in reaching its goals for tuition generation over the summer. “It is probably unrealistic at this time to expect the university to exceed those goals,” he said. However, he added, “The decision […] is, first and foremost, designed to provide our students with high-quality learning experiences that allow them to make progress towards earning their degree.” 

Upon hearing about the decision, junior hospitality management major Lily Manavi decided to take advantage of the change in format. “I probably would have not taken summer courses in person because I am supposed to have an internship this summer outside of San Francisco, but I figured since the COVID-19 pandemic is supposed to last a while and my internship may or may not happen, it would be a good way to keep busy and help me knock out a couple of requirements,” she said in an email. 

Manavi has never taken a summer class before, but said she hopes the professors will adjust their expectations according to the circumstances. “I hope that the professors that I have chosen will be understanding and have more knowledge about how to administer online courses given that they probably have had to make the transition to teaching online for the spring semester.”  

It’s not just regular classes that are impacted by this change. The Muscat Scholars program, which offers coursework and mentorship for first-generation students getting adjusted to the University, begins in mid-July. The program’s director, Academic Success Coach Charlene Lobo Soriano, is already anticipating a virtual redesign of the program in case the decision on May 1 requires that students do not meet in person in July. 

The Muscat Scholars program relies heavily on in-person experiences, and the July training typically runs from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day for two weeks. “The program is a two-week intensive preview into the academic and social experience of college,” Lobo Soriano said. “A lot of that is best communicated in person because they need to know how long it takes to get from Hayes to Lone Mountain. We can’t really spell that out for students. […] So how do we translate those lived experiences to virtual ones when possible?”

While Lobo Soriano noted that the two-week training may need to be stretched over a longer period in order to reach its goals, she is confident and optimistic that the remote version of the course could be made to be engaging. “It’s a pretty powerful way to engage students before they arrive,” she said. “[There are] really good opportunities for conversation and engagement that you really can’t get until you arrive on campus, so I think it has potential for many different reasons, and that’s why I’m willing to try.”

If it becomes necessary to redesign the program virtually, Lobo Soriano said she hopes the Muscat Scholars program will be a model for other programs to go online and still achieve their goals. 
Hamrick said special attention is being paid to other programs that may need unique adjustments in order to go remote. In an email, Hamrick said, “Certain graduate programs (e.g., Sport Management and Data Science) launch their cohorts during the summers rather than the fall semesters.” He explained that some of these programs have high numbers of international student enrollment and will be utilizing special strategies to help students adjust to remote learning formats that they may be unfamiliar with before they eventually transition to in-person instruction.

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