by Joshua Stewart | May 4, 2020
Summer 2020 isn’t shaping up exactly the way many students (and faculty and staff, for that matter) expected. But with expanded course options, lower costs to attend, and the first-ever Maymester at Georgia Tech, the summer semester still offers all kinds of possibilities — and more flexibility than ever.
Current students can use the four summer semester options to accelerate progress toward their degrees, and first-year or transfer students can get a jump-start on their Georgia Tech career. With courses taught remotely, they can still balance academics and whatever other summer plans they might have — the same key advantages summer semesters have always presented.
“We’re focused on creating summer programs that activate and accelerate students’ overall Tech experience, helping them get ahead of next semester, growing their personal community, and opening up avenues to explore career interests,” said De Morris Walker, director of the Office of Undergraduate Education’s Summer Sessions Initiatives.
For the first time in Tech’s history, summer courses will be delivered remotely — in the same way spring courses have been delivered — as campus remains on modified operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Walker said that has presented opportunities to expand course offerings, including more sections of popular courses.
Plus, taking courses this summer will be cheaper than ever.
The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia has suspended many of the fees students usually pay for various campus services, including specific fees for courses or labs. The only fees still in effect are the technology and special institutional fees. Students are now also being charged per credit hour for summer courses instead of the usual flat rate.
iGniTe First-Year Programs
For incoming first-year students, summer will still offer the chance to build their community and connection to Tech. The iGniTe transition program for incoming students will operate virtually, but still offer all of the benefits that have built a buzz around the program for new Yellow Jacket families.
“It wasn’t our original plan to have iGniTe students begin their Georgia Tech career remotely, but we are looking forward to meeting everyone in our virtual classrooms and co-curricular activities,” said Christina Wan, assistant director of Summer Session Initiatives. “We know this is what we have to do to keep everyone safe and healthy.”
Wan said the shift to a virtual summer has sparked creativity and innovation among iGniTe’s planners. They’ll still offer workshops and live virtual events, and some experiences will offer students a chance to participate at their own pace.
“The program has a mentorship component, the SPARK mentor program, where we pair previous iGniTe students with iGniTe first-years. We are planning to offer this mentorship opportunity virtually,” she said. “Additionally, GT 1000 will serve as an important virtual community-building and success initiative. We are very committed to creating opportunities to provide the same student success components within iGniTe — just virtually.”
Wan said the team has been working nonstop to develop these remote experiences and is on track to enroll 700 students this year, as planned.
Summer Study Abroad
Likewise, students who had planned to study abroad for Summer 2020 can still cover the same academic ground in the summer months — if not the same physical ground.
Since Tech has canceled international travel programs, study abroad courses have been converted to online sections whenever possible, Walker said. In some cases, alternate courses are being offered to replace what students would have taken abroad.
Either way, all students will pay the in-state tuition rate for virtual study abroad classes, no matter where they live.
Students staying home may want to take advantage of the inaugural run of a concentrated Maymester at Georgia Tech, the fastest way to meet a core graduation, major, or minor requirement. In just a three-week period — May 11 to 29 — students can earn 3 credit hours.
Maymesters add a fourth scheduling option for summer classes, which also are offered in an early or late short summer session and a full summer session.
“Even considering this unusual situation, early signs suggest this pilot is a successful idea,” Walker said. “Most of the Maymester courses have met or surpassed their enrollment targets.”
Summer also is a great time to work on a minor — or finish one, Walker said. Courses for 18 different minors will be available over the summer, and the minor in computing and people is among those being offered in the summer semester for the first time.
“Students who wish to start a minor — or who have declared one — have the advantage of enrolling in courses without competing with students majoring in the same subject,” Walker said. “In several cases, students can complete their minor during the summer, or they can make significant progress by taking two or more courses.”
The minors in industrial design or economics are structured so that students can knock out all the required 15 credit hours over the course of the summer: Students can take two classes in early short summer, one in full summer, and two in late short summer.
Summer can be a useful time for Tech’s graduate students, too, who may now find themselves able to take advantage of class offerings while research labs are quieter.
“This summer, our graduate students have the unique opportunity to take courses remotely that could help them make progress on a variety of goals ranging from developing professional and career skills to making degree progress,” said Bonnie Ferri, vice provost for Graduate Education and Faculty Development.
Based on results from a survey of graduate students in the spring, Colleges and Schools are expanding their course offerings to accommodate demand. They’re encouraging students to highlight demand by joining the waiting lists for courses they want to take so they can see where they need to expand seats.
Ferri said this is also a great opportunity for distance learning students and students at Georgia Tech’s remote campuses to take courses that are usually only taught on the Atlanta campus.
“I’ve been so impressed with how the Colleges and Schools are adjusting their programming to try and meet student need,” Ferri said. “If you are a graduate student who suddenly has time to take a summer course, I hope you will take advantage of this opportunity.”
Meanwhile, Institute leaders are beginning to plan for research activities to resume on campus so graduate students can continue making progress.
Many undergraduate students also use summer to engage more deeply with faculty members and participate in research. The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program is working with faculty members to offer remote research projects for students this summer for pay or academic credit.
“Even though students cannot directly access campus labs, the research enterprise continues at Tech, and there are opportunities for undergraduates to work with faculty and conduct research remotely,” said Christopher Reaves, executive director of academic engagement programs. “Some research endeavors are easily performed remotely, such as data analysis, coding, literature reviews, surveys, and more.”
Students can connect with an Undergraduate Research Ambassador during their virtual office hours to find out more, or work with faculty members to find out how they can contribute.
“Summer research offers students the ability to stay connected to labs; maintain and develop relationships with faculty, graduate students, and research scientists; and gain practical experience that will help them succeed in their undergraduate studies and prepare them for graduate school or professional careers,” Reaves said.