Taking courses in college is required for the awarding of the selected certificate. However, the actual value of these courses can vary from being a complete waste of the student’s time to a wonderful experience which inspires and adds greatly to student satisfaction. Choosing a college course which will both benefit and move the student toward the desired certification is an art which requires doing some homework. Yes, it is just like everything else in this world, one needs to research in order to make an informed choice.
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Three things must be considered before signing up for a college course: the subject area: interest and prerequisites, value for the future and the teacher. Of these three things, the value for the future is your first consideration. If the course is a requirement for the program, then there is no choice outside of the time slot or teacher. If the course is taught at several different times and all are equally ok for access, then the teacher must be considered. For courses, the second consideration after selection of the teacher is the interest. Value for the future is tied to this also. If the program of study is related to the college course, and the subject matter is interesting, then there is definite value in taking the course. If the required prerequisites have been completed, then the student has a good foundation for success. It is not recommended to try taking any course for which the prerequisites have not been completed. The student should inquire about this from the teacher before signing up, since some are merely “suggested” prerequisites, and these may not have been officially listed. However, the selection of the teacher must be done very carefully, since finishing a course which was not required can become a chore if the teacher is not the best one for the student’s learning style.
In selecting a teacher, the student has three tools at his or her disposal: the teacher’s academic reputation, anything published by the teacher, including the syllabus for the course or others, and word-of-mouth information. Most colleges publish biographical information on their websites for all their instructors. These can offer more than just an idea of the teacher’s experience. Biographical information can also provide clues to the teacher’s culture, which will greatly impact their teaching style. For example, teachers with experience in British style schools will usually offer a grading rubric which can aide the student greatly in achieving higher grades. Teachers with foreign experience may be more accessible to foreign students. The site may also list what the teacher has published. Looking at these publications can give the student an excellent understanding of the teacher’s writing style and areas of interest. One might expect that whatever writing style the teacher uses will be acceptable from the students.
The student should also read the syllabus very carefully. The first thing the syllabus offers is usually an overview of the content of the course. The clarity and completeness and ease of navigation in the syllabus can give important clues to how much guidance will be offered by the teacher and also show how much he or she communicates about the expectations from the students. It is simply easier to get a higher grade if the teacher’s expectations are known. The syllabus also generally includes a list of required texts and useful resources. All of these are valuable guidance for the student.
Last, but not least, the teacher’s reputation among former students can give a strong indication of whether or not there will be a good fit between this teacher and the student. The student should ask former students if they had any problems, and also ask about the teacher’s style. Does the teacher give a lot of homework? Does the teacher use class discussion or stick strictly to lectures? Is the MATERIAL PRESENTED IN CLASS IN THE TEXTBOOKS, OR DOES THE Teacher use class time to supplement the reading? Is it easy or difficult to take notes in the classes? These answers will show if the teacher’s teaching style suits the learning style of the student. How tough is he or she on grading? How accessible is the teacher to students who need help? These are important questions to which the answers should be carefully considered in light of other information gathered in the research process.
In selection of college classes, the student who follows these suggestions will usually find the selected classes valuable and enjoyable. Even with required classes where the student has no choice of teacher, the student benefits from this research. Researching the course materials and the teacher’s experience, reputation and style will help the student to select classes taught by teachers with styles compatible to the student’s learning style and support needs. Even though most teachers try to be objective, knowing what the teacher is likely to want from the students is always useful and usually results in higher grades.
- Here is an example of a very informative syllabus for a writing course.
- Wayne State University, 2007.