Ah, summertime; that delightful five months between semesters when the sun is shining, the cottage is open and educational responsibilities are the problems of your future self. During this time, the stressful strain that arises from the need to get a university education is put aside to enjoy festival season, beaches and lounging in the backyard. Fast-forward, however, to October 10 with midterms right around the corner. Atop the pile of assignments you’ve yet to complete the “required reading” list your professor handed out at the beginning of the semester. As your eyes scan the list, your hands begin to shake, tears well up in your eyes. How are you supposed to read 784 pages by Monday?
You’re not a bad student; you regularly attend class, your notes are flawless and T.A.’s look forward to your insightful participation in seminar. But Thursday was 80’s Night at Isaac’s and you’d been waiting for weeks to bust out those acid wash jeans you found in the back of your dad’s closet. The readings could wait.
Friday morning you crawl out of bed to the kitchen in search of a glass of water and an Advil. You’re so hungover you see sound. Your phone erupts in a cacophony of vibration.
“Good seeing you last night. Hope you’re feeling ok this morning did you do the short-response assignment yet? It’s due at noon.”
“I’m good lol. What were the chapters again?”
We’ve all been there. Despite our best intentions and efforts, university life has a way of catching us off guard. Attempting to stay on top of school work while maintaining a modest social life (not even touching on students who work part time) is much more about juggling and compromise than expected. When you stop and do the math, our semesters are painfully short. Recharged and refreshed from the summer, the enthusiasm and “go get ‘em” attitude we start the year off with quickly diminishes, crushed under expensive textbooks, 8:00 a.m. lectures and professors whose pronunciation of the word “hierarchical” makes you want to throw your clicker across the lecture hall. If only we had one of those Hermione Granger time-turney things. Actually, forget plot-hole fictional, fantastical design. A real solution isn’t so mind-bendingly magical, in fact, it’s simple: Release course syllabi and outlines before the semester starts.
This is hardly a new idea. Many other universities throughout the country release course syllabi and outlines throughout the summer. Carleton University’s Political Science Department website lists all undergraduate courses for the Fall 2016 semester. While the website states that “course outlines will be posted as they become available” 46 of the 59 courses offered in the 2016 Fall semester have already been posted online for students to access. The University of Manitoba’s Asper School of Business website has all 40 of its Fall 2016 course outlines and syllabi available to students before the semester starts in September.
But why would you want to spend your free-time through the summer worrying about school when you could be spending it from the comfort of the beach?
Having spoken to fellow Brock students and friends at other universities, the most obvious benefit is that early access to detailed course outlines and syllabi allow students greater opportunities to decide whether a class may be of interest to them. While the course descriptions provided on the Brock Undergraduate Calendar are helpful, those few lines only tell you so much. Additionally, knowing assignment schedules allows students to plan early for crunch times. Of course this will not work for every situation, but granting students that extra freedom of choice can be helpful for those attempting to fill out the limited space in busy schedules.
An academic benefit also exists for students who are looking to get ahead of their reading assignments. With early access to syllabi, students can begin their studies in the free time they may have throughout the end of the summer. As a book-worm myself, I find that making the effort to read throughout the summer makes the transition back to academia simpler and makes getting back into the groove of school less stressful.
If you recognized any truth in this article maybe you would like to see this utopian education idea become a reality. Maybe you’re content to spend your summer free time playing video games and hanging out with friends and look forward to the challenge of reading 300 pages in the half hour before your seminar presentation. But wouldn’t it be nice to have the option? When your sunburn is so bad that you can’t deal with the heat perhaps you’d like to look at your future readings. “Hey look: chapter on the effects of prolonged sun exposure and the associated risks of melanoma!”
Keith Thompson, Contributor