Engineering shouldn’t gear students towards taking 6 courses

Curriculums should test skills, not the mental breaking point of students

For those who are not aware of those buildings on campus with the geared archways, they house those students, the ones rarely seen in broad daylight — the engineering students.

Nothing has changed for them since online school has become a thing at the University of Alberta. When I say that, I mean our massive course load has not changed. 

Some people say five courses is too much but when you are an engineering student that sounds like a distant dream. For first years, we all have to do six courses in-person, but unlike previous semesters, we must do them all online

Now why put those students through that stress? At the end of first year, students are put into disciplines and in order to qualify, those first years have to complete certain courses by the end of the qualifying first year. There are stipulations for them as well, as they cannot easily drop courses without consequences. 

It’s not really fair to put students coming out of high school in this predicament. As a first year engineering student, I wondered if there could be a better way for them to construct the first year engineering courses. Could they make some classes into modules that would be completed before coming into school? Or even out the workload so engineering students understand the concept of sleep and daylight? Do students have to take six courses a semester? 

The University of Calgary, as an example, only lets first year engineering students take five courses a semester with the option of taking a sixth course in the second semester. I feel like the University of Alberta should follow suit with the University of Calgary, even though most universities in Canada have students take six classes a semester.

I get that engineering is a rigorous program to get yourself into, but it should not be to the extent of testing where a student’s mental breaking point is.

I believe that the system they have right now, especially with everything being online could be improved especially if COVID-19 cases rise again and we go into lockdown. The university can alleviate a lot of students’ stress by lightening the workload. 

The last thing the university wants to do is set up students to fail. I feel like certain classes, such as ENGG100, should be taken before coming into the faculty. Ideally, it should be taken in the summer before the fall semester.

This class is a credit/non-credit course first year engineering students are required to take but is not offered all year round. Having this course in the summer allows students to have the knowledge to prepare them for success, have access to resources on campus, and start thinking about their profession as an engineer even before they start their studies. This then would help lighten the fall semester. 

Students should also get a chance at taking ENGG160 in the spring term to help with the course load in the fall semester. This is another credit/non-credit course required for a first year engineering student. This class familiarizes students with the design portion of the profession, teaching us about the life-cycle, guidelines, regulations, and components of a design project. This class may not seem bad but throwing it into a schedule with five other heavy loaded classes can put a lot of strain on a student. However, by taking it at another time like the spring semester, engineering students will feel less pressure and have less assignments to worry about. 

Those changes suggested don’t seem that impactful at first but in reality, it all adds up to make a substantial difference for students. Marks are already very competitive, and by decreasing the course-load for students, it can make all the difference to ensuring students achieve success.

Additionally, engineering students could finally learn what decent sleep feels like, and experience the outside world past the dome of engineering, — like interacting with our non-engineering friends.

Janelle Henderson

Janelle is a second year Chemical Engineering student and a senior volunteer contributor for the Gateway. When she is not working process flow diagrams or pipeline systems schematics, Janelle loves to read and write with her AirPods in, listening to throwback playlists.

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