EDUCATION: On University Classes and the Why of Them

I’m a third-year student in Ryerson University’s Radio and Television Arts program. As of this writing, I’ve undertaken five semesters, and am in the midst of a sixth, with two more forthcoming before graduation. I’ve noticed four particular purposes by which I approach a class within my program.

The first is career-oriented. These classes often typically offer skills I will need later, such as my writing and production classes, which will get me jobs once I’ve graduated. I choose these courses because they will have a marked effect on my ability to get and hold a job within my future career. The second is education, which are of special note because of the quality of education they offer, such as the history courses I’ve taken taught by Dr. Arne Kislenko. These courses may not offer particular skills towards my future career, but they increase my knowledge of the world around me, and change the way I think about and interact with it.  I choose these courses because of the thrill of learning things I’m interested in, and the enjoyment I get when the scope of my understanding the world expands. The third is credit, which are courses that I take primarily because I am required to because of the structure of my program, or because they are easy members of required groups. These include the bulk of the required English courses I’ve taken over the course of my undergrad. And the fourth are timely, fitting in between my current schedule of work, internships, clubs and play and offering smaller workloads.

Each course has a mix of these four categories, which makes choosing a schedule (and orienting my direction within my program) a difficult experience. Should I orient myself to learn the skills that will make me more valuable to potential employers, to the potential detriment to my marks or interest? Should I focus on taking courses wherein I learn more and enjoy it, which could damage my academic success and won’t offer me vital career opportunities? Or should I choose courses that will be an easy ride, but won’t offer me career opportunities or learning experiences? And where do I effect my established work/extracurricular projects and GPA in order to have a more rewarding in-class experience? Now, few courses are one exclusive to the others, but I often find myself weighing each of these categories when making a choice.

Each one makes sacrifices. I sacrificed joy of learning to academic success when I turned away from taking the intellectually-rewarding courses taught by Kislenko in order to take classes which require less effort for academic success. I sacrificed a potentially career-aiding television editing course in order to make my scheduling easier. And sometimes it’s out of my hands: if it were up to me, I wouldn’t take more than one or two of the required English credits, preferring the professionally-related stream.

Which priorities I follow also has a deep effect on my life for the 4-5 months I’m engaged in them. This semester, I prioritised schedule and career in mind, taking mostly courses that allowed me to develop an out-of-class career life (my first internship, two name-building blogs, etc.) and would develop my career as a dramatic television scriptwriter. These courses also apply to the others, of course: I find writing and pitching emotionally satisfying, and I have a few courses I don’t see being terribly difficult to succeed in, in order to raise my CGPA. I’ve noticed that I’m more engaged, and more likely to attend, a class that appeals to my joy of learning or my career, whereas classes that appeal more to my schedule or due to their ease are often likely to become those I skip. This is ironic, as those classes I choose on the basis of their ease often become my worst marks; my inability to engage and lack of interest in attending have definitely hurt my marks for such classes.

I’m curious as to whether these priorities are different from student to student, and for different programs/schools. Any thoughts?

2 responses to “EDUCATION: On University Classes and the Why of Them

  1. chloeperelgut January 24, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    I know when I was there, I was very picky with my courses. First and foremost I chose the career courses (writing/marketing/producing) because I knew those were fantastic ways to kick start your career (equally because of the professors that taught them, not just the materials taught). Secondly I was on scholarship (the President’s National at Ryerson which can be recurring if you keep a 3.67 [use to be 3.5]) and had a minor L.D. so I then chose ones that would be stimulating but inevitably would boost my grades.

    I paid attention to my schedule in passing since my scholarship WAS my job. I also lived off campus (about 45 minutes away by Subway) so I knew that transit was part of the equation as much as anything above.

    RTA is a hard thing to compare against because we’re SO career based. Anyone who took it for knowledge was likely to have been happier in a general communications course where knowledge could win out over career.

    That being said, I found a fantastic job right away because of my choices, and will likely move to another fabulous job after this because of my choices towards career. So for me, I believe I made the best decision to wring RTA for all it was worth*.

    *For what it’s worth, I’m a HUGE proponent of the concept that your RTA tuition is like paying for a calling card/name drop. It has never failed me in media circles and while some of my best relationships came from other sources, being in RTA has helped people believe that I was dedicated to Media well before I had a chance to prove it. I would likely go to the mat if anyone told me that at least 1 year of RTA tuition isn’t worth the cost of the opportunities afforded to an RTA alum.

  2. Pingback: WRITING: Looking Back on 2011 | The Diversionist

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