This semester I’m taking CMPSC 475: Application Programming, which is about iOS application development. I think the class is great, and app development is something I’ve always wanted to learn, but this class requires so much time each week that I almost regret taking it. I spend at minimum 20 hours per week doing the weekly projects and readings, and considering that it’s only a three-credit elective, this has added so much stress to my semester. On one hand, I really enjoy working on the assignments and I’m learning a ton, but on the other hand, the amount of time we’re expected to devote to just this one class seems unrealistic.
I didn’t know this class would be so time-consuming when I signed up for it – I just enrolled because I was interested in the topic. Since then, however, I’ve talked to friends in my major who have said that they would like to take 475, but the time commitment deterred them. I think it’s unfortunate that an interesting and useful class like this can get overlooked just because of the way the school system works. When students are scheduling classes and already have a difficult course load, adding an elective that requires 20+ hours/week just doesn’t seem like a good idea when there are other options that demand less effort and still fulfill the requirement. Also, for most students in this course it affects their major GPA, not just their overall GPA, so getting a good grade is important.
Katelyn wrote a great blog post a few weeks ago about why general education credits should be pass/fail, and I thought it was an interesting way to encourage students to view general education credits as opportunities for exploration rather than simply a checkbox to fulfill in the easiest way possible. My experience with CMPSC 475 reminded me of this issue with the way our general education credits work, although I don’t think a pass/fail system is a feasible solution for 400-level major electives. I don’t have another solution to propose for this case; I think it’s just a result of the way degree programs are structured to give students a choice in the upper level courses they take. I am definitely grateful to have that choice, but it’s clear that there are different ways to approach it. All in all, I’m glad I’m taking 475 because, even though I love to complain about it, I think it’s one of the most valuable and rewarding classes I’ve taken here at Penn State.