Although almost half of Penn Summer Online’s options are language courses, the classes are still facing enrollment issues.
According to Lada Vassilieva, administrative director at the Penn Language Center, the biggest challenge it faces is “securing enough enrollments to run these courses.” Although the numbers are still changing, there are currently between one to eight students enrolled in each session of the language courses, with Online Beginning Business Chinese having the most enrolled students.
Of Penn Summer Program’s 24 online courses this summer, 11 of them are language courses that offer classes ranging from Arabic to Italian. The program is run through the Arts & Sciences Learning Commons, a social learning platform to support online learning.
The Penn Language Center — which offers the summer classes along with the School of Arts and Sciences — requires that each course meets the minimum enrollment of six students. However, “our policy is flexible and allows for the instructor to select to teach the course on a per-capita basis,” and there is a payment scale for per-capita arrangements, according to Vassilieva.
Grace Wu, who taught Online Beginning Business Chinese last summer and will be teaching it again this year, said “it was an exciting experience to teach [the] online course.” However, due to the format and nature of the subject, there were difficulties in obtaining appropriate material.
“As far as I know, we are the only one [to] offer online Chinese courses in Ivy League schools,” she said in an email.
“Studies on educating Chinese learners using technology integration in the classroom are hard to find,” she added.
Despite the current relatively low enrollment numbers, Vassilieva remains optimistic about the summer courses.
“We are confident that the summer online program in languages will draw enough interest to take place this summer because the quality of these courses is very high,” she said.
Although these language courses are taught online, there are still regular time slots allotted for real-time interaction between the instructor and students.
Some online classes, such as Calculus I, which has real-time lectures from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays except Friday, force students in some parts of the world to take them in the early morning due to the time difference. However, for Online Beginning Business Chinese, which is offered from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., the time difference has not posed difficulties in the past.
“There are two Korean students who took online Chinese last summer. The time zone is 12 hours different. However, they enjoy taking the class at 9:00 p.m. in Korea,” Wu said.
“I did not mind the time zone difference,” College senior Wontek Woo, who took the course last summer, said in an email. “For me, it was even convenient.”
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