Learning Beyond Your Course
Whether you’re a Year 12 starting to think about your personal statement, a Year 13 preparing for your course in September, or a uni student trying to broaden your knowledge, it’s always a good idea to look for opportunities to learn beyond your course. As you progress into Sixth Form or college, and then onto uni, you notice that the onus increasingly falls on you to take responsibility for your own learning. Whilst that can be a little daunting at first, I’ve personally tried to think of it as an opportunity to learn about what truly interests me. I struggled with this in Sixth Form — there were things I was interested in, but I didn’t know how to find out more about them. With all the focus on A Level exams, I didn’t manage to learn beyond them as much as I would have liked. Since coming to uni, though, I’ve tried to do this more. Often I’ll be really interested in a lecture, and want to learn more about the topic whilst its fresh in my mind, and this is always so useful when it comes to seminars and coursework later on.
Especially as a humanities student, the curriculum is not very strict at all. So long as it is relevant, I could discuss anything in an essay, so having a broader knowledge beyond what is covered in lectures and seminars is really valuable. As I go into my final year next year, I’m also aware that my dissertation will depend on my looking for what interests me beyond what I am taught.
So how do I actually go about learning beyond my course? I think this varies for different subjects, and whilst I can’t speak from experience for non-humanities courses, I think the following examples could work really well for those too.
This is my favourite way to learn beyond my course. As a History student, I’m very lucky to have access to the influx of popular history books in recent years. I couldn’t reference them in an essay because they aren’t academic sources, but they’re still really valuable to broaden your knowledge. If there is a topic or theme I have a vague interest in, I can often find a book written for a non-specialist audience and learn the basics. These books are often quite entertaining and engaging, so don’t really feel like work! As Warwick students, we have access to a vast number of e-books through the library website, and can even take advantage of the free postal loan service if the book is not available in an online format.
Again, these are typically for a non-specialist audience, so are an accessible and engaging way to passively learn about what interests you. There are so many podcasts out there at the moment, so there is definitely something for everyone. Because they are so often formatted as conversations, you quite often pick up one interesting comment which you can follow up elsewhere and deep dive into. It’s those bits of knowledge which prove very useful in seminar discussions, or even just helping paint a clearer picture of what you’ve been learning about.
You can find everything from documentaries, to lectures, to experts explaining tricky concepts, and much more. You can use it to get a foundational knowledge of something, or to consolidate something you were unsure of. YouTube is a really useful and fun way to learn (so long as you don’t get distracted by the occasional cute cat compilation…). Like the other two ideas, I find this much more engaging and productive than sitting at my desk poring over academic articles; if it’s something you’re interested in, you can find a way to enjoy it and make it not feel like work.
I hope these ideas are helpful and maybe encourage you to learn more about what interests you!