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Bellingham
Monday, October 19, 2020

Summer kicks off… and it’s quiet

By Grace Taylor

Smaller class sizes, a calm and sunny campus and a library all to yourself.  If you’re one of the students making your way to campus this week, you might notice campus is a little different. As you walk to class, you’ll notice it’s more quiet, your professors might be more tan and your syllabus is managing to cover 11 weeks of material in less than three months.

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I’ve noticed attendance tends to be worse and students tend to be less engaged, daydreaming of playing in the sunshine,” Western philosophy professor Christian Lee said. “I do a little daydreaming myself.”

Western’s Extended Education summer session is open to the community and any interested individuals, requiring a simple application rather than formal admission into the university to gain full access to over 500 courses.

Red square is nearly empty on the first day of summer quarter, Tuesday June 26. // Photo by Mathew Roland

Non-residential student tuition reduces from $669 to $380 per credit, according to the Western Summer Session website, and there are  unique field-study courses not offered during regular quarter sessions. Despite this, not all students can be expected to commit their summers to taking classes, so campus sees much lower levels of enrollment.

“Getting to know faculty and student-colleagues in a smaller setting is a fantastic way to enhance the teaching and learning environment,” Extended Education’s director of technology and planning Andrew Blick said. “Summer provides a great opportunity to learn about faculty research and to engage with the campus community in a different way.”

While in-class lectures during the summer are more engaged and focused with heightened responsibility to be fully present, there comes a higher level of dedication and independent focus required to thrive during these off months, Lachlin Bell-Duffy, a fifth-year behavioral neuroscience student said.

To senior Callie VanAelst, the benefits of being able to speed up the graduation process and minimize the overall time spent at Western was a big advantage. VanAelst took a health education course online during the 2017 summer session, opening her schedule so she could take another course in the fall and cut down on the amount of total time spent at Western.

Bell-Duffy  has spent two of her last three Bellingham summers on campus and is registered for two courses this summer. For STEM-related courses, the summer session offers some nine-week accelerated courses with smaller class sizes and longer lecture times. She said while accelerated summer courses may require a more enhanced level of focus and dedication, it helps to keep students on track for their graduation plan and future quarter registration.

“Taking those accelerated chemistry courses really made me focus, mainly because I was a bit nervous. I really put my nose to the grindstone and told myself I needed to concentrate and do my best,” Bell-Duffy said. “Because I got those two classes done in nine weeks, I was able to really jump-start my entrance into the neuroscience major.”

Courses offered online are structured with a set schedule, planned deadlines and video recorded lectures. Additionally, there is consistent availability for communication with the professor, whether via email or Skype conference calls. But this convenient option doesn’t come without downfalls.

The heightened price of per-credit tuition and additional fees for online courses, along with a lack of in-person lecture time for online students living outside of Bellingham are all factors that play into the unique atmosphere of summer session at Western. If you’re one of those students sitting in class this week, rather than by the beach in the sunshine, keep your head up – just six weeks until freedom.

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