Fulfilling graduation credits on your own time

April 1, 2020 — by Lihi Shoshani
Students take West Valley classes in order to complete their Visual Performing Arts credit.

Sophomore Alyson Van chose to take an online West Valley Art History course during the summer after her freshman year.

She’s not alone in trying to fulfill one year of Visual Performing Arts (VPA) credit for graduation away from Saratoga High.

Van felt that getting her credits during her freshman year would take a lot of pressure off her during her more stressful junior and senior years.

Registrar Robert Wise has found that most freshmen take a VPA course, with 1883 students having had one in the past nine years.

Art history took only a month of her summer and came with unexpected benefits.

“I wasn’t interested in the [VPA] classes provided here at Saratoga, so it was nice that I could fulfill the school’s requirements in an easier and less stressful way,” she said.

Van now has a free period that leaves her with the opportunity to take other STEM-related electives she’s more interested in.

For students who don’t find the art courses offered at Saratoga High sufficient to their likes and needs, the option is always there to take it elsewhere and at a convenient time.

West Valley offers nine classes for VPA credit: Music History, Survey of Western Art I and II, Basic Digital Photography, Beginners Guitar Level 1, Beginners Drawing and History of Landscape Architecture. Foothill College offers History of Western Art, Middle Age and History of Western Art Middle Age. Students also have the option of taking Beginners Drawing at DeAnza College.

Although these options exist, Wise’s research shows almost all students complete their VPA credits at the school. In fact, he noted that there has been a decline of students over the years who take VPA classes outside of school.

In the 2018-2019 school year, most students completed their VPA credit during their junior year, with 245 students taking the course at school.

Senior Sidanth Venogupal is one of the students who completed his credit during his junior year, but not at school. Because he didn’t have enough space in his schedule for another class, he opted to take Survey of Modern Art, an online course offered by West Valley College. This was because he procrastinated on fulfilling his credits until it was too late to put the class off.

“I originally wished I had taken the course earlier but after I took the course, I realized it was much more convenient as I could, for the most part, work at my own pace,” Venogupal said.

He enjoyed completing the course over six weeks rather than the entire year because he didn’t have any other space in his schedule to add a VPA at school.

Over the course of four weeks, he engaged in daily discussion posts and written assignments on Canvas and learned about  analyzing the complexities of modern art, in addition to taking multiple online open-book quizzes based on required textbook readings.

“The professor of the course was really engaged online, so the experience of learning how to navigate the online course was a breeze,” Venogupal said. “I was able to learn about pieces of artwork that I otherwise would have never discovered, all while still being able to engage in my other extracurriculars during the summer.”

According to Venogupal, taking a course at West Valley College is the right choice to make for students who want to prioritize other classes over the school year while still being able to have time during the summer to focus on other commitments.

“Taking a VPA course outside of school is a nice way to take care of one of the graduation requirements and it gives students the opportunity to tap into other courses we don’t have that students could find interesting,” guidance counselor Frances Saiki said. “However, I think it’s nice to take it here because there are really fun and enjoyable classes that can balance out a student’s stressful schedule.”