Qualities of an Exceptional Summer Course

Both students and faculty members report favoring summer intensive courses over traditional course formats.  In a survey of summer course faculty, Kretovic, Crowe and Hyun (2005) found that a majority of instructors

  1. enjoy teaching summer classes,
  2. find it easier to build rapport with students,
  3. believe that students are more focused on learning outcomes,
  4. believe that students participate more in class discussions, and
  5. believe that students attend more regularly.

Interestingly, these faculty perceptions correlate with findings about the attributes that students associate with high-quality intensive courses.

Patricia Scott (2003) categorizes the attributes that students give to high-quality intensive courses under four headings:

  1. Instructor Characteristics: Faculty of high-quality summer courses are enthusiastic, knowledgeable, collaborative with students and caring about students.
  2. Teaching Methods: Successful courses feature active learning, classroom discussion, experiential learning and an emphasis on depth over breadth.
  3. Classroom Environment: Effective summer courses promote student-student and student-teacher interactions within a relaxed atmosphere.
  4. Evaluation: Superior courses deemphasize busy work by promoting assignments that help students to synthesize learning.  Reports, papers, projects and presentations are frequent forms of evaluation in high-quality intensive courses.

According to Scott (2003), “Students repeatedly indicated that instructor enthusiasm and experience, active learning, classroom interaction, good course organization, student input, collegial classroom atmosphere, and a relaxed learning environment were essential to learning in intensive courses.”

When these attributes are present in a summer course, the impact on students include

  1. more concentrated, focused learning,
  2. more collegial, comfortable classroom relationships,
  3. more memorable experiences,
  4. more in-depth discussion,
  5. less procrastination, and
  6. stronger academic performances.

“When these attributes are missing, students report intensive courses to be tedious, painful experiences” (Scott, 2003).


  • Kretovic, M.A., Crowe, A.R. and Hyun, E. (2003). A study of faculty perceptions of summer compressed course teaching. Innovative Higher Education 30.1: 37-51.
  • Scott, P.A. (2003). Attributes of high quality intensive courses. In R.J. Wlodkowski & C.E. Kasworm (Eds.) Accelerated learning for adults: The promise and practice of intensive educational formats, 29-38. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.