Penn State to offer enhanced online offerings and support over summer

April 15, 2020

With Penn State moving to a virtual learning environment for the summer, the University is providing enhanced online offerings and support for first-year and returning students in the Maymester, Summer Session I and Summer Session II. 

During the Maymester and Summer Session I, which typically see enrollment from continuing Penn State students getting ahead in their program of study or catching up on courses they need to keep their academic program on track, the University will offer both asynchronous online and synchronous remote courses. The type of course offering will be determined by several factors, but primarily by the ability to meet student learning outcomes using an appropriate pedagogy. 

The course portfolio will be similar to previous years and consist of select upper-level and entrance-to-major courses as well as general education courses. Student support, such as tutoring through Penn State Learning and psychosocial support through Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), and co-curricular engagement through student organizations and clubs, will be delivered virtually.

Summer Session II, which is a critical component of the first-year experience for almost 2,500 incoming students across the commonwealth, will include elements of the World Campus Smart Track to Success Program for all first-year students to help them adjust to online learning. 

At University Park, where about 2,000 first-year students begin their studies in the summer, the University will offer a fully virtual Learning Edge Academic Program (LEAP) with both asynchronous online and synchronous remote course offerings. The virtual LEAP program will replicate the residential model with two small, cohort-based courses as well as out-of-class programming and peer-mentoring to help students successfully transition to Penn State. The course portfolio for incoming students will consist primarily of general education courses, as these are open to students in all majors and allows all students to begin progress toward their degrees. Students also will be introduced to University resources such as the University Libraries, Penn State Learning, CAPS, Career Services, and co- and extra-curricular opportunities.

Penn State Commonwealth Campuses are offering remote and online courses for continuing and incoming students this summer. Incoming students at all 19 Penn State Commonwealth Campuses can begin their college coursework this summer through the new Summer Start option. Summer Start is focused on student success and includes courses designed for new online learners. It will replicate in-person learning, with small class sizes and special programming, including online tutoring and peer-mentoring to help students successfully transition to Penn State.

Students at select Commonwealth Campuses will be able to participate in The Pathway to Success: Summer Start (PaSSS) program, which provides students with tools and resources to increase the likelihood that they will graduate and earn their Penn State degree on time, with the potential for significant savings in tuition and fees. PaSSS will be offering asynchronous online and synchronous remote content. 

For graduate students, remote synchronous delivery will be important for resident master’s students, but fully online courses that are available through the World Campus will also provide a portfolio of options that can be considered for use. During the summer, research degree students who have been supported during the prior fall and spring (Ph.D. and some M.S. and M.A. students) are continuing their studies and most often taking research credits, methodology courses and/or a subset of courses that are offered by discipline, and in some cases, courses related to preparation of their dissertation. In most cases, these were adapted to remote synchronous delivery in the spring, and graduate faculty will seek to further enhance engagement with students in those courses over the summer. The fully online graduate courses that are available through the World Campus will also provide a portfolio of courses that can be considered for use in cases where they may provide related disciplinary content. For more information, visit the Graduate School website or contact your graduate program for information on summer courses available online and via remote delivery.

Classes during the second half of the spring semester are being taught via remote instruction, which uses traditional in-person class pedagogy delivered to a remote audience via videoconferencing technology. The synchronous learning aspect of remote instruction this spring has been important for keeping students engaged with the materials that had been introduced in a traditional in-person format. In comparison, some summer courses will transition to including online learning, which opens up different opportunities for students, all while meeting the requirements for major-specific coursework, including labs, seminars and discussion sessions.

“In online learning, the faculty member typically works with an instructional designer and draws upon pedagogical approaches that are specific to teaching online,” said Renata Engel, vice provost for online education. “These courses use a variety of digital tools and multimedia resources that support learners as they engage deeply with content, their instructors and their peers — all while maintaining the same quality and ability for students to achieve the learning outcomes.”

These changes apply to all undergraduate and graduate coursework at all Penn State campuses, except for medical education at the College of Medicine. Students should reach out to their individual colleges and academic advisers in the coming weeks with any questions about their specific coursework and academic progress.

If students do not have access to a computer and/or the internet from their locations, they should log in to the IT service portal and fill out the Penn State Mobile Technology Request Form or call 814-865-4357 to formalize their computer/access request prior to the start of the summer semester. Penn State IT is continually working on the availability and distribution of equipment. Information about their requests will be relayed via the phone number provided in the request form. Once students receive their equipment, they should contact the IT Service Desk for 24/7 support.

In order to use personal hotspots on their devices, individuals may also secure additional data from their wireless carriers. The following providers have information readily available on how to upgrade data: AT&TCharterComcastSprintT-Mobile and Verizon. Find more providers and information on the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected page.

More information on other summer programming as well as some FAQs will soon be provided. Please bookmark and continue to visit for the latest information.

Last Updated April 16, 2020