Student enrollment in online summer courses offered by the University of South Dakota has more than doubled in the last five years. Michael Card, associate provost for graduate and distance education, said he expects to see more growth for summer 2014 courses.
From the summer 2009 semester to the summer 2013 semester, the total enrollment in summer online courses has gone from 2,201 students to 4,645, according to Off-Campus & Distance-Learning data.
Card said this increase is due in large part to a revolution in the last 10 years in which students are picking up credits in the summer to keep on their academic tracks, however, students do not necessarily go through USD for their courses because the market is more saturated than it used to be.
“We’re still seeing more growth,” Card said. “It’s just not as fast as it has been the past 10 years, and that’s because more and more universities are getting into the business of online courses.”
Card said USD used to view online offerings as a cash cow, but since colleges and universities across the world are offering more, USD views its distance education as an add-on to the educational experience.
Alongside the growth of enrollment, the number of online summer class offerings more than doubled from 111 to 247 courses from 2009-2013, and the university is offering over 300 courses in summer 2014, depending on enrollment demand.
Susan Hackemer, associate director of the USD Honors Program and academic adviser, said the summer class experience has quickly changed.
“It’s a very interesting dynamic what has happened,” Hackemer said. “What feels like the blink of an eye, the way students approach their summer classes has flipped.”
Hackemer said when advising in the past, her students either ignored the summer semester or stayed in Vermillion to take a full course load. Now, it’s easier to take a class or two from anywhere, and she said on-campus classes in the summer mostly cater to locals or students doing research.
Sarah Heinrich, a first-year pursuing a health science degree, is taking 13 credits over the summer 2014 semester. Six of her credits will be online and the other seven will be taken at the University Center in Sioux Falls.
Heinrich said it would not be possible for her to finish her degree and receive an associate degree through Southeast Technical Institute without the summer and online offerings.
“I’m really thankful USD offers resources like the university centers because it is allowing me to attend lectures while I am in Sioux Falls this summer,” Heinrich said. “USD also offers almost all health science courses online, which is really accommodating for students in my similar situation.”
Offering most discipline courses online, however, isn’t always the case, Hackemer said.
With the honors students she advises, Hackemer said she has faced problems with students trying to find upper-level offerings. Most advanced language, biology or calculus courses are not provided.
“Students I see that come in for advising have a hard time trying to get what they need, because some classes just aren’t offered online or in the summer,” Hackemer said. “The struggle I face with summer planning with students is finding a course that’s going to genuinely make scheduling for upcoming years easier.”
There has been some trouble communicating summer offerings to student Card said.
He said his office has begun placing advertisements around campus to get the word out, but have found that student often don’t take the time to research potential summer and online coursework.
However, he still expects a continued increase in the use of summer and online resources.
“What we’re trying to do at USD is improve the online learning experience,” he said. “For most people, face-to-face is more desirable, but sometimes that online experience is necessary.”
Photo: First-year Sarah Heinrich works on biology homework April 29 in the I.D. Weeks Library. Heinrich will be taking six online credits during the 2014 summer semester. (Malachi Petersen/The Volante)