By Certain Jones
In theory everyone at university is doing what they love or at least see themselves in a career based off of their degree. People should be passionate about what they’re studying, they chose their subject and many courses include optional modules. Students should be doing the things they like but students are finding that peers aren’t as enthusiastic.
“I want people in my class to be passionate, but I can’t do anything about it”
As I interviewed students on whether they and their peers are enthusiastic or not, I came across the same answers, students on courses with the majority of their modules being compulsory showed less enthusiasm, or that’s what many said:
“I feel think that in subjects with more choice, regarding modules, you’ll find people who are more passionate for those niche subjects. The reason I picked Cardiff was because the course was so open, everyone has the opportunity to pick something they want to study.”
“Students are definitely more interested in classes for optional modules, and less so in core modules.”
It often seems that the material and teaching style of the compulsory modules are what is putting students off:
“Most of my core modules are boring and not very engaging”
Sure some modules are going to be both necessary and a bit mundane, but if the majority if not all your modules are compulsory it’s easy to see why students are so exhausted.
“I feel it can depend on the performance of the lecturer, but on the whole I have found that in optional modules there has definitely been a greater level of enthusiasm which in turn makes me feel more engaged in class”
“I don’t expect people to be passionate about compulsory modules, but there are still people who don’t like the modules hey chose.”
Engaging teaching is definitely a factor in student enthusiasm, it’s easy to fall asleep to a droning lecturer reading off of a slideshow you could’ve just read yourself at home.
“Some lecturers aren’t as good as others, or some are boring, and if the teaching isn’t engaging the students aren’t going to be”
“You have to go into it knowing that there are going to be classes and teachers that you don’t enjoy or like”
I conducted a survey to see if my hypothesis is correct, are students with optional modules more enthusiastic than those with compulsory modules?
The Survey showed that although over half (68%) of the students who answered did have some if not all optional modules, and got to choose exactly what they studied. However only less than half (36%) confirmed that both themselves and their peers were enthusiastic in and out of class.
After reading student’s responses however the majority agreed that more freedom with module choice would increase enthusiasm and course enjoyment. I turned to other data to see if the year of study effected enthusiasm, the survey showed that approximately half of all students who responded were in their second year of study, this could definitely have an impact on enthusiasm among students as goes the infamous ‘second-year-slump’ where students in the middle year of their course become more relaxed about their grades and put in less effort to go to class or engage with their lectures. It’s also true that students become overwhelmed with a larger and much more demanding workload.
It’s also true that some courses suffer in enthusiasm because of the nature of the subject, for example, rigorous, career oriented, courses are more taxing on students, such as medicine, engineering, and law.
“People do tend to choose Engineering for the job prospects, but considering the requirements in the first place, and the course is very intensive, some don’t enjoy classes but still work really hard.”
“I know someone who did engineering because he was good at maths but he doesn’t really enjoy it he just wants to get his degree”
“There are just some classes that are boring. Like statistics and as a result of difficult reports and narrow margins make people tired, fatigue is definitely a killer of enthusiasm”
However even in courses that pride themselves on their range of optional modules find student enthusiasm plummet as the year goes on. For example courses such as English Literature, or language, psychology, and other media courses all have optional modules as a majority but enthusiasm still varies a lot.
“I often feel that other students are not very passionate or interested, which is surprising for the degree (English literature and language). It is especially felt in seminars when no one contributes and spends most of the class on their phones, if they even show up at all. It is discouraging to be surrounded by people who aren’t excited about what they do.”
“Some students give the impression they chose the course because they thought it would be an easy degree (media) which isn’t encouraging.”
Feedback also pointed out that the students doing joint honours degrees get even less choice and often are forced to choose modules they aren’t interested in due to timetable clashes.
“You can’t always pick what you want to do, it’s sometimes the best of a few bad options”
“In theory I could take purely optional modules but due to clashes I had more limited options.”
As stated it makes sense to most students that they’d be more eager in class if they had more flexibility with module choice. The fact that the statistics argue this point is interesting and leads me to conclude there are many other factors that affect student enthusiasm. Taking all these factors into account, it is impossible to determine exactly what controls student enthusiasm, with personal life, financial problems, physical and mental health, and many other issues that might contribute to students lacking passion for their degree.