Summer Away program helps students get ahead

Story by Mykaela Cross, Assistant Editor

To many college students, summer vacation means trips to the pool, relaxing and time home with the folks, but for students who want to make steady progress toward graduation, it can mean time gone to waste. With that in mind, for the second consecutive summer Baker University is offering selected online courses at a reduced tuition rate so that students can earn credits without stepping foot on campus.

This year’s Summer Away Program includes more choices, including general education courses, with the goal of making summer classes more available and appealing to students. Each credit will cost $199, a slight increase from last year’s $150, but it is still competitive in today’s market.

University Registrar Ruth Miller said that the program, though still new, is growing and seems to be going well so far.

“It started last year as a pilot to see how we might serve our students, giving them an opportunity to take courses online over the summertime for a reduced tuition cost,” Miller said. “Many of our students have jobs and do things away from campus that makes it more difficult for them to take courses here than it would be if they were online. We had a good response from students last summer, so we thought we’d try it again this summer.”

Summer Away will offer general education or Quest courses such as QS212: Ideas and Expression and QS311: Global Culture and Community, along with Quest-linked classes such as MM140: Mass Media and Society.

Miller thinks that the program benefits students because it eliminates credit transfer risks that come with taking summer classes through other institutions.

“What we’ve tried to do is select courses that we feel will be attractive to our students in helping them meet a requirement that might free them up in their normal semester,” Miller said.

Freshman Kinsey Ford is one of the students drawn in by the idea of taking summer classes.

“It will give me time to take other classes and take care of my Quest requirement, especially with this being my first year,” Ford said. “ I will be at home most of the summer so I figured that would be a good way to get those credits out of the way.”

Ford first became aware of the program on the university website and followed up with her academic advisor. Though she has yet to experience the program, Ford is most excited to get Quest courses out of the way so that she will have an easier time studying abroad next year.

Senior Paige Smith participated in the pilot program last summer. After having finished the course, she highly recommends it to other busy students.

“It’s great for gen eds that aren’t specific to your major and courses that you need to take for your degree and get them out of the way,” Smith said.

Smith’s Human Development class was much like her previous experience with online courses.

“It was all on Moodle,” Smith said. “My professor communicated with me through my Baker email even though she was abroad in India. One of the big perks is that she would post the assignment and the reading and directions for each class online and we wouldn’t have to sign on at any specific time. We just did the course whenever we wanted.”

The ability to work on her own time was a convenient experience for Smith, but it was also the biggest challenge that came with the online class.

“It was less structured, so you really had to be on top of managing your time,” Smith said. “It’s not for people who struggle with time management. You don’t have the professor to hold you accountable for those assignments. It’s all on you to get it done.”

One of the disadvantages Smith found in the program is the lack of human interaction.

“In my opinion it doesn’t replace going to class and getting the interaction with the teacher and other students, but overall I would recommend it. As classes go, you still get the same information,” Smith said.

Online enrollment will open at 7 a.m. on April 7 for those with senior standing. Juniors will be able to enroll on April 9, sophomores April 13 and freshmen can enroll on April 15.