Learning contracts give students academic flexibility

By Eva Mo

For students who are interested in self-learning, Whatcom Community College offers a Learning Contract that will design individual course content, or possibly take a course from the catalog for students.
This means students can have more control over their learning, such as negotiating the pace of learning, the learning methods and evaluation with a self-designed contract.  
The learning contract, program has been in existence since Whatcom was founded. In fact, when Whatcom was created, the college focus was on the learning needs of adult students.
Now, Whatcom has changed to accommodate different diversities, including many types of students. Fortunately, learning contracts have been kept on campus.
The number of students varies each quarter but on average there are between 60 and 80 students earning credit through the learning contract program each quarter.
Beth Tyne, the coordinator of Learning Contract and Prior Learning Programs, encourages students that are curious about the possibilities for learning through independent study.
“The biggest requirement is a willingness and ability to work independently, to be self-directed and self-motivated,” said Tyne.
According to Tyne, there was a student who studied in the past with learning contracts before. She was short on credits in her humanities requirements for her paralegal degree.
Tyne shared that the student was interested the intersection of mental illness and law.
To overcome this, Tyne and the student designed a contract in philosophy to examine the philosophical and legal basis of a mentally incompetent defense and the rights of those with mental illness.
However, certain subjects are not expected to work well in this program. For example, language, science courses with labs, and studio art courses are the subjects that require a greater amount of interaction to learn than the one provided with a learning contract.
In the learning contract, the student is matched with a faculty mentor who is paid to facilitate the student. Therefore, the amount is much less than a regular lecture or an online course.
“I believe that all students can benefit from the experience of independent learning and I am here to work with students to find the best formula for success,” said Tyne.
“We are all required to constantly retool, upgrade skills, and incorporate new information in our lives and careers.”
For Students who are interested or would like to know more about the program. All the information can be found on Whatcom’s website, or through STARFISH or by calling or visiting the Entry and Advising front desk 360-383-3080 in LDC 116.

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