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Optional Modules: A dip in the pool of academic curiosity
Taking optional modules could be either a boon or an overload in a new university experience. Depending on your course structure, you may be required to take a certain amount of optional modules outside your core, but how does one go about choosing? Should you venture outside your home department? If your course includes the opportunity to do so, this blog post might ease the decision in your upcoming year.
Take it from someone that has taken modules in five different departments, choosing is not easy. In an interdisciplinary course, you have much freedom among the departments ranging from politics to WBS, offering different benefits and having some negatives that go along with these. Let me tell you about the important factors to consider, that will help you go along especially if you never have tried any outside department options.
What choices are available?
First, have a look at the options available for those currently a year above you in your course. The module lists may vary slightly year upon year, but it will give you an overall outline of what options you have and the departmental range within the options. If your course doesn’t offer too many options and you have a keen interest in something, don’t be disheartened. Email the department, as you may still be able to take it within good enough reason. If you see something particularly interesting, search up the module just to ensure there are no prerequisites. In some cases, you can take a module coded from a previous year in the next year, such as taking 100 coded modules in your second year. This could help get over the prerequisite requirement and move on to a more specialised version in your final year.
Where does your interest lie?
Think about whether you enjoy the module’s contents, look at the topics within it and whether you are familiar with those or curious about them. This is something you will have to stick with for a year, and do decently well in, taking it just for the sake of trying to challenge yourself, it may affect performance on your core modules later on. Alternatively if you only have choice within a single department, there must be something that you might enjoy within that. This year, a new module titled ‘Environmental Economics’ piqued my interest as I am required to take a certain amount of modules from that department in the next two academic years. I am not specifically looking to specialise in any other modules offered and the merging of environmental issues with the concepts in economics offered something unique.
What kind of structure does the module take?
Think about playing to your strengths and what type of assessment style you’d prefer. Some prefer the theoretical approach with assessment and tests, and others group projects and essays. Have a look at the breakdown, having a lot rest on a single assessment type requires one to have a certain mastery of that type.
How keen are you to do something new?
Sometimes modules can be super unique, things that would never usually take or have never encountered. This shouldn’t deter you, but to get a different perspective, try to email the lecturer closer to the module selection date and ask further questions or ask any people you might know who have opted for similar modules or are in that department. This term, I’m taking an interdisciplinary module (IATL) which focuses on treating mental illnesses. It doesn’t count towards any required optional modules, I took it out of pure interest and it offers a balance against my theoretical based work with a focus on discussion and essays. Branching out is never a disadvantage, even while entering the corporate world, as companies look for a well rounded person with different perspectives.
Do you know anyone else interested in this?
Sometimes having friends with overlapping module selections can be a very important thing. Making friends in new modules is not fun for everyone, and having someone who understands the workload helps. It’s an added advantage if there are group projects involved where you may choose your group, having someone well known often produces better results. At the same time, it is great to meet new people and have a new experience working with them in a project. After trying both sides, I can’t help but recommend going in with an open mind and knowing only a few people. Just make sure you are comfortable adapting to new groups and making new friends.
You may choose to take into account some or all of the above, I do hope they help overall in your decisions in the upcoming year!