Set Up for Summer Session | Information Technology | University of Pittsburgh

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Set Up for Summer Session

There are many advantages to taking and teaching classes during the summer term. Class sizes are smaller and can be completed in half the time (or less) of a typical course. They can be a great option to help students graduate on time, especially for those with more than one major or minor or for those switching majors. Summer courses can also present challenges due to compressed timelines, non-traditional students who are not familiar with University courses, and the demands of commuting.  Here are our best summer session tech hacks.

Enjoy the Outdoor Wi-Fi

There’s no need to miss out on the warm weather just because you have a summer class. Instructors are welcome to conduct classes in an outdoor location to keep people refreshed and engaged during a longer class session. Studying while lounging on the Cathedral of Learning or Schenley Plaza lawns is a great way to enjoy a sunny day.

Pitt IT provides many outdoor Wi-Fi locations, including Benedum Hall plaza, Cathedral lawn, Hillman Library / Posvar Hall corridor, Petersen Events Center lawn, Soldiers and Sailors lawn, and William Pitt Union grounds. So grab your laptop, some sunscreen, and a bottle of water and enjoy the great outdoors while doing classwork.

Use the Computing Labs On and Off Campus

While many students live on or near campus during the fall and spring terms, a far larger number will be commuting for a summer course. Commuting students want to make the most of their trips to campus and avoid the need to come to Oakland when they don’t have class. The virtual and on-campus Student Computing Labs can be used in tandem to achieve both goals.

When you’re on campus, the Student Computing Labs provide a comfortable and productive work environment with access to 100s of software titles on reliable, high-powered PCs and Macs and access to Pitt Print Stations. Groups can work in one of our Collaboration Rooms to study together or work on a group project. If you bring your laptop to campus, the Mobile Computing Counters let you plug in while you work so you can save your battery.

When you don’t make the trek into Oakland, you still have access to the computing power and software titles available in the labs. Just connect your device to the Virtual Student Computing Lab to turn it into a lab machine. (Check out this Panther Bytes blog about the Virtual Lab.)

Get Organized for a Compressed Class

One of the advantages of a summer course is that you can fit a whole class into a 6-week or 4-week session. This leaves plenty of time for summer travel, internships, research collaborations, or relaxing at home with friends and family. On the other hand, compressed courses can be intense. You’ll be spending significantly more time in the classroom during the week, you have to synthesize a lot of information in just a few weeks, and class assignments will have short turn-around. Keep organized with these Microsoft apps, which can all be found in the Microsoft 365 portal:

Microsoft To-Do

To-Do is a personal task management app that lets you create convenient daily and weekly to-do lists. Tasks can be broken down into simple steps, and you can set due-dates and reminders to keep you on track. Not only is it available as an online or desktop app, but you can also see To-Do tasks from the Tasks app in Teams and in the Outlook Tasks section.

Microsoft Planner

Planner is a simple project management app that is perfect for coordinating group projects. It’s a simpler app than Project, but still lets you create visual schedules and project timelines, create charts to show progress, and manage all the tasks among multiple people. Like To-Do, Planner tasks can also be seen in Teams and Outlook.

Microsoft OneNote

Keeping organized and comprehensive notes that can easily be searched is a must when the course timeline is compressed. Use OneNote instead to keep your notes and class information well organized. You can pull in documents, webpages, images, and other content into a OneNote notebook. You can also break up notes into separate pages when you cover several topics in a single classroom session. Handwritten notes or Word/Notebook documents are going to make that really difficult, but OneNote makes it a breeze.

Stay Informed and Keep in Contact

In a summer session, you need to stay on top of things. Waiting a week to reach out is just not feasible in a class that only lasts a month! Make sure you know what’s going on and reach out to students and instructors immediately when you have questions or concerns.

  • Canvas is the first line of communication. Instructors are encouraged to have well-organized class pages, with the assignments and deadlines clearly defined. Students should refer to their pages frequently.
  • Be clear about your preferred communication methods. Instructors may want messages to be sent through Canvas, by email, or via Teams Chat.
  • Teams Chat is the easiest way to get in touch with fellow students. You don’t need their username or cell phone number, and you won’t need to set up a GroupMe or WhatsApp group. Instead, just type in the name of anyone at Pitt to send them an instant message. In order for this to be effective, everyone should download the Teams mobile app so they get a push notification when someone sends them a message.

Enjoy Your Summer Studies

Summer is a great time to take a class or two. Whether you’re taking one course or several, take advantage of the tech resources available at Pitt to stay hot in your summer studies.

-- By Karen Beaudway, Pitt IT Blogger