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Arts & Sciences Announces Summer Online Learning Pilot

| Contributing Writer

College of Arts & Sciences announced the arrival of a flexible learning program to take place over the summer of 2024. (Yiwen Zha | Student Life).

On February 29, Washington University College of Arts & Sciences announced the arrival of a flexible learning program to take place over the summer of 2024. This program, named the A&S Summer Session, promises to better shepherd the in-person experience of traditional classes to a cutting-edge online learning environment for all WashU students.

The A&S Summer Session will host a total of five courses from the 15-20 proposed by faculty, according to ArtSci Vice Dean of Undergraduate Affairs, Erin McGlothlin. She said that the undergraduate advisory committee’s goal for the program was to select courses taught by faculty with previous experience in online education. 

According to McGlothlin, the committee then decided that classes must be relevant to the needs of students, especially to fulfill credit requirements.

“Sometimes students get almost to the point of graduation, but they don’t have that writing intensive course that they need,” McGlothlin said. “[The A&S Summer Session] allows them to take that summer course and graduate at the end of the summer.”

Courses being offered for the program’s pilot include American Politics, Biological Psychology, Introduction to Archaeology, Medical Spanish, and Argumentation. McGlothlin said that she hopes that ArtSci can expand the program further with the help of student feedback.

She also wants the summer program to be an evolution of online education that escapes its past shortcomings.

“We didn’t want to just have faculty who had been forced to teach over Zoom suddenly pitch a Zoom class,” McGlothlin said. “We wanted this to [utilize] the best practices and online pedagogy and not to be just a continuation of pandemic teaching.”

Documents obtained by Student Life have confirmed the new approach, with faculty members involved in the pilot required to complete over a dozen days of training about online education in tandem with their previous experience. Further, courses will be evaluated on a nationally recognized scorecard that measures the strength of course technology, content, interaction, and more.

Dr. Rose Hores, an anthropology lecturer at WashU, is experiencing this process first-hand in preparation for her Introduction to Archaeology course. She hopes to build the online course through teamwork, feedback, and understanding students.

“I think it is also equally as important so that you know that sense of community and the presence of support,” Hores said.

McGlothlin also hopes to see other schools adopt ArtSci’s online learning approach.

“I’ve spoken to [the associate dean of Olin], but also Sam Fox and McKelvey,” she said. “They are excited about this because their students often need Arts & Sciences credits in the summer. So, I do think because we’re the biggest undergrad school, the other schools are looking to see what we do and decide if it works for them.”

A&S Summer Session courses are now viewable on WebSTAC, with course registration opening on March 27. Running from June 10 to July 12, Session 2 will offer American Politics and Biological Psychology, while Session 3 will run from June 10 to August 2, offering Introduction to Archaeology, Medical Spanish, and Argumentation. Financial aid is offered in limited amounts. 

“I think it makes sense to offer this opportunity with [WashU students’] busy schedules,” Hores said, reflecting on the purpose of the initiative. “Trying to manage internships, fellowships, or other volunteering stuff — anything for more experience. But now the opportunity is ‘Oh my gosh, now I can do a class online too!’”

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