Summer Course Guidance in L&S

This document provides guidance regarding summer course selection and scheduling in the College of Letters & Science.

Update for Summer 2021

Campus has announced that Summer 2021 will be a mix of in-person and remote courses:

Summer course variety and scheduling

Ideally, new course offerings should expand (not merely displace) current summer enrollments. Online courses may be a good way to attract a new audience. Departments should consider courses meeting general education and breadth requirements as well as major requirements. Courses that are bottlenecks or otherwise have long waiting lists in the academic year should certainly be considered. Departments should avoid offering multiple courses in the same session that appeal to the same group of students. Idiosyncratic course timing (not conforming to the usual 4-week or 8-week sessions) may be problematic for students, and thus discourage enrollment.

The following are some of the most commonly used sessions:

New course approval

New courses (not previously offered in the academic year or summer term in any format) require approval by departmental, L&S, and University curriculum committees before they can be offered in the summer term. Please consult with James Montgomery regarding new course proposals, to make sure they can get through the approval process in time.

Courses previously approved for the academic year can be offered in the summer term (in either face-to-face or online formats) without further course approval from curricular committees. Nevertheless, instructors developing new online formats without technical assistance from Learning Support Services should contact James Montgomery to confirm their plans.

Online course development

DCS makes an annual call for proposals for summer course development funds. Recognizing that DCS-funded proposals typically include funding for technical support as well as summer funding to the instructor for course development, departments interested in online course development are strongly encouraged to respond to the DCS call. Departments that nevertheless wish to self-finance online course development (using past summer profits or non-summer funds) are encouraged to contact the James Montgomery to discuss their plans.

Low-enrollment guidelines

Summer planning directly incorporates costs and revenues, making redundant our old low-enrollment guidelines. Whether a course is “profitable” (i.e., makes a positive contribution to department surplus) depends on both the instructional costs and the number of paid credits. (Obviously, courses with higher instructional costs require more paid credits to “break even.”) As indicated in the L&S Summer Budget Model, departments are permitted to run courses that reduce department surplus as long as the department maintains a positive surplus overall and has identified departmental funds adequate to cover potential losses. However, the department should consider whether this is the best use of department surplus.

Graduate courses

Under the summer budget model, courses intended primarily or exclusively for graduate students will generate little or no revenue if these students receive tuition waivers. As with low-enrollment undergraduate courses, departments are permitted to run such courses as long as the department maintains a positive surplus overall. But again, departments should consider whether this is the best use of their surplus.


Departments are responsible for advertising summer-term courses to internal audiences (including their own majors, other L&S students, and non-L&S students). Marketing to external (non-UW) audiences will coordinated by the Division of Continuing Studies (DCS). Departments may wish to contact Steven Wright to discuss marketing for a particular course, or to explore how potential summer courses could fit into existing marketing initiatives.

Primary Contacts for L&S Administration

See Also: