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Student view

Making critical choices about courses

by Jillian Terry

More than half way through the fall semester, it has come to be that time again where departments across Memorial’s campuses are finalizing course offerings for next term so that students university-wide can choose what they’ll be learning about once January rolls around.

While course offerings and selecting which classes to present to the student population may seem like a tedious task best left to university faculty and staff, the decisions they make behind closed doors affect students in a major way. In fact, there’s a lot more hinging on course selections than simply the time slot it’s offered in or whether it’s an easy A.

Some students have more manoeuvring room than others when it comes to choosing courses – accelerated and dual-discipline programs often mean that your path to graduation is a rigid one, where most courses you need to receive your degree are chosen for you without much flexibility. Other students have a much more flexible route to the convocation stage, picking and choosing across various departments in order to get that perfect mix of courses best suited to their interests and fields of concentration.

Whatever the case, it still stands that the courses approved by Memorial administration to be offered in each faculty have a large bearing on what students will get out of their education here. Whether or not students can choose these courses is largely irrelevant, because if they are not offered in the first place, there is no way for students to be exposed to the ideas presented in them.

This is precisely why it is vitally important for departments to offer as many courses as their limited infrastructures will allow. It doesn’t have to be every semester, or even every year, but having a wide variety of courses listed in the university calendar means that prospective or current students can find something that they have a keen interest in, and look forward to when it will be taught so that they can engage in the material in an insightful and motivated manner.

Students understand the pressure being felt by departments across the university as the undergraduate student population rises – the pool of faculty available to teach special topics courses slowly diminishes as more and more sections of required courses are needed to meet the high demands being placed on departments.

It follows then that having a wide range of classes highly accessible to students becomes even more important, as it is necessary to keep the interest of these increasing numbers of students as they progress in their undergraduate degrees.

It is in the best interests of everyone that more courses be offered to students rather than less. Departments should work on introducing even more new classes that will appeal to an even broader segment of students, and concentrate more energy on making sure inactive courses are taught, even if only once every two or three years, giving interested students the chance to see what it’s all about. In the long run, the advantages for both parties are obvious.

Students will be exposed to new and provocative ideas that they had never before considered, and departments will reap the benefits of having undergraduates who are engaged in a wide variety of issues and interests, some of which may even inspire students to continue their learning at a graduate level.

So the next time you go online to register for courses if you’re a student, or the next time you attend a department meeting about course offerings if you’re a faculty member, consider the fact that the choices you make ultimately shape the type of degree you or others are able to receive. It should be a goal of the entire university community to ensure that Memorial continues to develop new and exciting courses and offer existing classes that reinforce the diversity essential to a well-rounded university education.