Photo of students walking through the Anne Cleary Walkway.
Photo by Bill Adams/ The University of Iowa.

Summer is a time for teaching in short, intense bursts in four, six and eight week courses. 

UI Journalism faculty Frank Durham teaches frequently in the summer and has learned a few things along the way.

“Converting a syllabus from a long-semester 16-week format to a compressed summer schedule can be challenging,” he says.

An instructor preparing a shorter length course may have to address many questions before the first session.

Does content need to be cut or compressed? How does assessment take shape in such a short time? Can students produce fully realized projects that quickly? How does the pace of individual class sessions differ when class times are longer and more frequent?

After wrestling to fit longer-format courses into shorter timeframes, Durham has the following suggestions:

  • Don't just slot twice-weekly lectures into the shorter summer schedule. They won't fit.
  • Instead, to keep the curricular content constant, identify the core teaching objectives in the original syllabus to address within a different syllabus. This will allow you to develop new units in the summer format.
  • This may mean abridging some reading, adding others and taking the opportunity to introduce new media to the course.
  • Reconsider your in-class format. Lecturing may successfully give way to a more interactive project- or report-based discussion approach.
  • Be patient with yourself in the first go-round (and from then on). Keep a daily diary of what works and what you'd like to change.

At Cornell College in Mt Vernon, Iowa — which only offers courses in three and a half week “blocks” — Professor Kerry Bostwick of the Education Department is well-versed in creating courses taught on a tight schedule.

“Be very organized,” she says. “The syllabus should outline daily expectations and give students a sense of how to prepare for class the next day. For example, readings to be completed and for what purpose.“

Courses at Cornell are taught in two-hour, twice-a-day sessions, so keeping students engaged can be a balancing act for the instructor.

“If an assignment or project or even the readings are quite hefty, then a professor may not teach all four hours each day,” she says. "This gives students time to work outside of class."

To support student learning, Bostwick knows being flexible is also crucial.

“Be willing to not do what is on the syllabus on days where students might have 'better’ or more pressing questions they want to consider,“ she says.

Durham has additional, equally sage advice for instructors.

“Remember that it is a summer course,” he says. “Go to the pool and relax after class!”