In an increasingly fast-paced world, the culture of being “too busy” is one that can lead students to withdraw from courses or activities due to lack of time and energy. However, the University of Saskatchewan Interdisciplinary Centre for Culture and Creativity is aiming to counteract this issue by providing students with a less demanding option to fulfill their education goals.
Established in 2014, the concept of the micro-course is a way for students to experiment with various areas of study without overwhelming their schedule with a full course load. Currently, these courses pertain exclusively to the arts and are only being offered through the ICCC.
Each class is worth one credit unit, compared to the regular three credit course, and the workload is reflective of that. In total, there are only 12 hours of class time and while students are still expected to work in these classes, the required readings and assignments are toned down and feel more like a workshop.
According to Jeanette Lynes, U of S English professor and co-ordinator of the masters of fine arts in writing, the ICCC is home to several programs that have been “enormously beneficial” to U of S students, and the micro-courses are yet another way to continue this positive trend.
Lynes made contributions to the new programming, along with other ICCC staff who she credits as key players to the innovative approach.
“Sabrina Kehoe at the ICCC was instrumental in establishing the micro-courses. I liked the idea right away. Sometimes it’s fun to sample a subject in a shorter format,” Lynes said in an email to the Sheaf.
While the micro-courses offer students a manageable way to experiment with new ideas in a relaxed environment, faculty and graduate students alike also reap the benefits of teaching these courses to students they may not have otherwise had the opportunity to work with.
One such MFA student, Patrick O’Reilly, designed two of the micro-courses being offered in the 2016 winter term and speaks to the appeal of the courses for students at all levels of study.
“It’s sort of a pressure-free zone I think. You’ve only got one credit so nobody is expecting you to go home and spend hours a night studying. For the courses I designed, it’s more of an exploration than anything else. So you’ll do some reading, but it’s all going to be readings that are available online. You don’t have to buy books. Maybe you’ll do a couple hours of reading a week, if that,” O’Reilly said.
Another benefit for students who register in the micro-courses is that there are no exams and no required textbooks to purchase.
Some of the micro-courses available to students include “The How of Poetry” and “Fiction in a Flash,” both designed by O’Reilly, who applied his experience in teaching workshops to the development of the one-credit courses.
“It was very exciting for me because I’d just finished my undergrad; I’d done a lot of workshops, I’d done a lot of volunteer work in middle schools and elementary schools teaching kids to write there,” O’Reilly said.
This work, among the work of others who designed courses such as “Spoken Word and Other Forms,” “Emerging Creative Minds” and “Designing for Print and Screen,” culminates into a unique opportunity for students.
Along with the creative course content, the micro-courses, when taken in threes, also fulfill a standard arts requirement, and Lynes insists that this option is a fun way for students to experience the diversity of post-secondary education without the stress of a heavier workload.
“These courses offer students a non-traditional way to study, intensive and short-term and offer a sampler of a subject area. Students receive a wider range of teaching styles with the micro-courses.”
Graphic: Jeremy Britz / Graphics Editor