As mentioned in Part 1 of the series, picking courses can always seem like a daunting task with the plethora of options available at UBC! But especially in light of online learning, striking a good balance between your interests and the energy you are able to devote to an intellectually demanding course is of utmost importance. Compared to when I was still in my first and second year of university, I found myself having different considerations for picking classes in my final year:
- Faculty requirements
- Lecture format
Keep in mind that this post is but a guide to get you thinking about what matters most to you, and you might find yourself realizing factors that are not covered but are still relevant to you and your degree. So without further ado, let’s dive in!
Faculty Requirements – Can I complete my faculty requirements this year so I can graduate?
This was an especially important consideration for me this year, given that it is my final year as an undergraduate. I had most of my courses for my major planned out using the UBC Academic Calendar and those for my Law and Society minor using the Law and Society website. But in light of the pandemic, several courses from my minor were no longer offered, leading me to have to rearrange my plans. I remember spending a lot of time researching alternatives for the courses that were discontinued, but ran into more walls when those clashed with other courses that were currently in my plan. In the end, I was able to find suitable alternatives for my major and minor requirements, but I ended up having to settle for courses I would not have originally considered. This can be a double-edged sword, because although they came at the cost of my interests, I did enjoy all the courses I took and gained experiences I wouldn’t have otherwise. Overall, it’s important to be flexible and open to trying new things, even if it’s as late in your degree as your final year!
Accountability – Can I trust myself to keep up with asynchronous classes? Will I be able to maintain a good school-life balance with my courses?
Recognizing your limits and setting realistic expectations is crucial to online learning. One of the key facets of setting these boundaries is understanding the accountability and demands of your online courses. Compared to when classes were in-person, you might need to switch out criteria like commuting requirements and your focus levels for those like screen time and the synchronicity of your lectures.
Ask yourself – are you self-motivated or do you rely heavily on the course calendar to remain accountable and keep up with the material? While you can be more flexible with your schedule and fill it up with more asynchronous classes, this might not be the best fit for you if you like engaging in discussions or require a more concrete structure. You might find yourself more stressed than usual during finals, or having to catch up on more than you had originally planned. Conversely, if you are in a different time zone altogether, signing up for too many synchronous courses might disrupt your sleep cycle or cost you participation grades if you aren’t used to functioning at full capacity at odd times.
It might also be worth considering your familiarity with the course content or prior knowledge when deciding which courses to take synchronously and which ones to take asynchronously. Courses that build on things you already have a good grasp on can make for excellent asynchronous courses and save you the stress of feeling isolated in trying to teach yourself something difficult. Ultimately, you need to decide which type of class is more worthwhile to hold you accountable: one that is of great interest to you or one that would require more effort as it is outside your comfort zone.
Time – Am I allowing myself time for breaks?
When classes were still in person, I preferred to stagger my classes and extracurricular commitments throughout the day so that I was alternating between them on any given day. But as classes switched to being on Zoom, I found that this led to constant overstimulation and left me feeling very tired. I recognized the need for larger breaks between my activities, especially since there was less movement and breaks in the form of walks across campus. I would strongly advise taking some time to evaluate your priorities for the semester and list things you want to accomplish by the end of it so that you can plan out your time in a more informed manner. Ensure that the time commitments your courses demand matches this!
Course Format – Do I want lectures, discussions, a balance of both? Multiple assignments or just one big exam at the end?
Finally, the last factor I want to highlight is the format of the lecture. Do you have lectures twice a week and a discussion on the third day, or is the class structured like a seminar with compulsory online discussions and in-class assignments? Which of these do you think would be less draining to keep up with in an online format? Take some time to compare your working style with the format of the course and the frequency of deadlines set – are you someone that likes having multiple deadlines spread out throughout the course or do you prefer the majority of your grade being dictated by exams? Depending on how much of a priority you think the course is, it might be worth switching out a course with the topic and instructor you like to one that is less demanding on your mental health.
Now that you have a more composite idea of some of the considerations I had, it’s time for you to dig deeper and determine for yourself what your unique top 4 criteria are! Use both parts of this series and the self-assessment to guide your assessment!