Choosing Course Pathways and Optional Modules
As we approach the end of the academic year, some consideration should be made, over the summer, on how you want to progress with your degree course. If you do a joint-honours course, you may have to provisionally choose a ‘pathway’ soon. This allows you to shape your course, such as through beginning to ‘major’ or focus on a particular discipline. Also, some departments require you to pre-register for optional modules, ahead of next year. So, researching pathways (for joint-honours) and optional modules early on will lead to a smoother start to the next academic year.
As a PPE student, this was a pressing topic towards the end of the first year and over the summer. There’s freedom to choose, based on your interests, on whether you would like to keep to the tripartite pathway or ‘drop’ a discipline. Additional consideration must be given on whether to major in economics.
Similar to other courses, majoring in a discipline can have advantages and disadvantages. An advantage is that it equips you with the relevant skills and knowledge for postgraduate study in this discipline. However, if you decide to major, it can be quite restrictive with the number of optional modules you can then freely choose as you may be required to do certain core modules. Therefore, it’s important that you understand how each pathway functions, the requirements, choice-availability and commitments.
Know the Parameters
As there are restrictions placed on module choices, it’s important that you know the parameters of what you can and cannot choose.
- Can you only do certain optional modules in certain years?
- How many optional modules can you choose?
- How will these modules affect your pathway?
There could be scope to do modules from other departments, which aren’t directly related to your course, such as languages, but limitations can be placed on such outside options.
Some modules require you to have done a certain foundational version of this module, such as in your first year. Also, certain modules are required to complete a set pathway. You might have options to choose between which core modules you can do but this has a knock-on effect on future years as you begin to specialise in a certain stream. Therefore, it’s important to think about the longer term and what you will be committing yourself to.
When choosing a module, consider reviewing its content.
- Do you find it interesting?
- Is this something that you would like to study?
Some modules may be more theoretical than others, which could be quite technical/applied. You can research what each module involves by checking the relevant Moodle/WBS page or the generic webpages.
Departments have differing policies. Some provide you with the freedom to choose whichever assessment method that you prefer. Some don’t give you this option. So, it’s important to understand the weightings behind your assessment.
- Will you be content in doing several group projects and presentations?
- Are you an exams person and will be happy with this end of year assessment?
- Do you prefer a module that has a mixture of tests, assignments and exams?
Ask for advice from older students and speak to personal tutors, director of studies, and other staff. This will enable you to gather a lot of information that supports you in making an informed decision on whether a module is for you or not.
It’s important to note that the more advice you get, the more complicated things might become. People will have different experiences and opinions. Some enjoy a module and others don’t. Some may not perform as well as others. Find out the reasoning behind their opinion because this might not be representative. For example, a personal circumstance might have influenced their opinion, which isn’t relevant to others that completed this module. So, be cautious in basing your decisions solely on the views of others. Instead, take it into consideration and use it holistically with other information.
Some performance indicators can be useful, but don’t take them too literally. Sometimes, students excel in certain modules, which causes its average grade to be inflated. A factor here is selection bias. I have heard a lot about this from fellow students and staff. What this means is that people that take this certain module are likely to be those that are naturally able and interested in it. You might then see the inflated average grades and decide to take the module by thinking that it’s easy. In reality, this isn’t necessarily the case as it’s more about ability.
Create a shortlist of modules. You might be set on doing a module but as you attempt to register in September, it might fill up in spaces or there’s a clash with other modules. You can find out this information before registration opens by reviewing the university central timetable/ Tabula, and then making your own calendar, where you can plan out the year with feasible seminar and module choices.
These are a few generalist considerations that you can use when choosing a module or pathway. If you found this blog useful, please share and leave a comment!