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All of Penn's summer courses were taught virtually this year.

Credit: Kylie Cooper

With the Summer Session II courses well underway, Penn's 2020 summer course enrollment will finish around 30% higher enrollment in comparison to last summer.

Vice Dean for Liberal and Professional Education Nora Lewis said 2020 summer enrollment has increased by approximately 850-900 course units as compared to 2019. The estimate includes all courses across Summer Sessions I and II, in addition to the 11-week evening summer session courses.

"There's a lot more demand for summer session courses than we have seen in the last couple of summers, and I think that makes sense." Lewis said. "Many students had their other plans change and they suddenly had time and interest in taking a summer course that they might not have had we not had COVID-19."

Lewis previously told The Daily Pennsylvanian that students had already registered for over 3,700 course units as of May 1, a 70% increase from May 2019. Many students, however, dropped these courses before the summer deadline to drop a class, Lewis said.

Since all summer courses are being taught remotely this year summer, Lewis said adding seats to courses to meet student demand was still difficult as it had to do with online teaching practices as opposed to classroom sizes. Expanding a course can entail adding teaching assistants, recitation sections, or, in some cases, entirely new class sections, Lewis said.

Courses in areas such as writing or foreign language are typically the most difficult to expand, Lewis said, as adding extra seats often requires creating a new class section entirely.

“Sometimes we're able to add sections,” Lewis said. “With enough notice we can identify with the department another faculty member or lecturer to teach. In other cases, we're not able to do that.”

Though all courses have been taught remotely, Lewis told the DP in May that the price of each summer course unit will not change from $4,566, as the "value of a Penn course unit is the same whether the course is delivered on campus, online, or in a hybrid format."

As a result, many Penn students, frustrated with the high cost of Penn summer courses, have instead enrolled in summer courses offered by other institutions.

Despite this year’s unusual circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lewis said she would not consider this year’s high rate of summer course enrollment a fluke. The enrollment is cyclical, she said, and the number of course registrations can rise or fall each year for a variety of reasons that include economic conditions and the job market.

“I think summer enrollments are responses to what's happening in the larger environment around us,” Lewis said. “And they kind of reflect where students are putting their priorities and what other opportunities they have available to them.”

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