Sunday, August 11, 2013

What about the courses?

Sunday afternoon in Melbourne, Australia

Taking a moment to write an update as my 4th week of classes awaits my preparation. Don’t worry, there’s no such thing as homework here.

So let’s talk about that foreign concept – no monotonous number plugging?... How could one ever learn in such an environment?!

It is really more of an independent structure; each course has one lecture per week, between 1 and 2 assignments due at the midpoint/end of the semester, maybe 1 or 2 labs throughout the semester, and a final exam. There is also a weekly workshop associated with each course, which is similar to a recitation period – a place to go work on assignments with a graduate student providing any necessary assistance. It is very much less problem solving based and more of a conceptual research method of learning.

This obviously has its pros and cons. The good is that you don’t have deadlines to meet every week, which means you can budget your time over the next few weeks rather than calculating how much sleep you’ll get on Sunday night in order to finish all your homework. Also, this type of learning forces you to problem solve using logic rather than having to compare to a similar example done in class - one is easier, the other is actually useful.
The bad is that your final exam is weighed quite heavily. For people who do not perform well in tests, this could be bad news. For me, I guess I will wait to see how easy these exams are and what kind of grades I get on them before I judge how I feel about this feature.

For the record, I am taking the following 4 courses:
Construction Engineering
Site Investigation & Geology
Transportation Engineering
Engineering Practice 6: Sustainable Infrastructure Design

I had originally signed up for 8, then narrowed it down to 4 once I got through orientation and was able to get a feel for the nature of the classes. As with everything else in studying abroad, preparation is key. In comparison, it is much easier to get 4 extra pre-approval forms signed a semester ahead while you're still at Clarkson than to get 1 signed from halfway around the world when one of your courses falls through.

Right now, I am going to go back to tuning my CAD skills for this Engineering Practice course. This class is awesome! We are basically designing our dream home while attempting to incorporate the passive design principals into our design. Would putting a basketball court next to the living room be acceptable? I sure hope so.



It’s a pretty cool driveway, I guess.

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