By Henry Slater
Yoga, gingerbread house making, cooking Korean tacos, floral design, and hypnosis. These are all classes offered at Whatcom Community College. What’s more, none of them require homework.
They are called community education courses and they are non-credit, open to anyone in the community, and occur during the later hours of the day, often in the evening.
People who show interest in these classes are typically people with busy schedules, said the interim manager the program, Shandeen Gemanis.
“They might want to take up a hobby, or acquire different skills, and community education classes align well with their schedules since they are busy in the day,” she said.
“Most of our customers are working adults who are looking for a class that isn’t a long-term commitment like a credit class might be.”
George Newell, a full time employee at Alpha Technologies, is taking a class on how to use Adobe Lightroom, a photography program similar to Photoshop.
“I’ve always done well with photography,” said Newell. “I did it a lot in my 20s, but suddenly I’m interested in it again.”
Taking the class saves tremendous amounts of time, said Newell. “If I had to go and do all this stuff like getting the books, and learning the software all on my own, it would take way too much time out of my day. Not to mention, I work full time, so it would be impossible to do classes during the day.”
The demographic for most community education classes is older than the typical college student, said the Lightroom course instructor, Allan Sanders.
“Usually my students are 40 or above,” he said. “I would say early 50’s is the average, although I have had students in their 70’s before.”
Class sizes can range from about 10 up to around 25.
Some students who enroll can be initially unsatisfied with the course they are signed up for. However, Gemanis has solutions to this problem.
“Our policy is that satisfaction is guaranteed,” said Gemanis. “So if someone came to a computer class related to work, or just a class for fun, and they found that the class didn’t meet their needs, we can give them their money back or transfer them to a class that does meet their needs. So they’re not out anything financially.”
Community education classes are “actually more like short workshops,” said Sanders. “They’re really good for learning specific things quickly. There’s no pressure, no grades, you get what you want when you need it and we have a lot of fun.”