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Many students are using online summer classes to fulfill graduation requirements and explore prospective fields of study. Credit: Emily Xu

After students' summer plans were canceled due to the coronavirus, many are taking online classes to fulfill graduation requirements and explore prospective fields of study. 

Students found little differences in remote summer learning in comparison to what they experienced during the latter half of the spring semester, and said some of their classes are better suited to online learning than others.

Rising College sophomore Helen Wu said she was motivated to take online summer courses for credit because as an international student, she does not have proper authorization to work, study, or participate in a virtual internship in the United States. She is taking "Intro to Linguistics," "Intro to Geology," and "Deviance and Social Control." 

"All of these classes are fulfilling some type of requirement,” Wu said. “My rationale was that when I get back on campus and I can take classes in person, I want to take classes I really like."

Rising College sophomore Meghan Fersten is taking "Autonomic Physiology" to help her decide if she wants to declare a major in neuroscience. The summer class was originally designed to take place half online and half in-person, which she said made the transition to remote learning smoother. 

“I think for [the professor] to adapt it for online wasn't difficult but she ended up making it really engaging it even with the online meetings,” Fersten said. 

On the other hand, Wu said her online classes had some clear limitations, as she is unable to look at and touch the rocks she is learning about in her "Intro to Geology" class. She added, however, that her "Intro to Linguistics" class is able to have more intimate discussions with a much smaller online class size.

During the school year, students taking "Intro to Linguistics" are graded based on their exam performance and the creation of a journal. In Wu’s summer course, however, students earn points in discussions and smaller, more frequent, assignments.

Wu and Fernsten agreed that their professors and TAs offered enough office hours and were very flexible outside of class. 

Penn announced on April 13 that all summer session classes would be conducted online and courses would begin on May 26. Over 1,200 students registered for one of the three summer sessions which run for either six or 11 weeks and are often smaller in size in comparison to courses during the academic year.  

"Overall, the online experience has been pretty good and pretty much the same over spring and summer," rising Wharton sophomore Tianhe Xie, who is enrolled in "Accounting and Financial Reporting," said. 

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