There are many questions that surround a student’s decisions regarding university, and one posed to me last year, along with my BCM cohort, was why we are there? This made me think not solely of my own reasons for attending, but on a broader scale, what universities could do to provide more answers for these questions, ways of getting students invested in their studies and ways of ensuring the course they have chosen will lead to whatever goals they have for the foreseeable future. Focusing on a small element of this, I intend for my research project to explore the availability of elective subjects to students, and the relation they have to a student’s degree, their core subjects, and the career path they hope to follow.
A student’s investment and interest in whatever they are studying is a major factor in engaging them in their studies, and keeping a consistent investment in their course. This is discussed in a journal from 2010, which is still relevant today in terms of this discussion. In reference to an analysis project, it identifies a student’s interest as, “the primary motivational force acting upon student participation and engagement in academic tasks,” and suggests that, “In order to increase student retention and motivation, secondary schools need to cater to individual interests,” (Wright, 2010). While this journal is discussing high school procedure, and the transition into Australian universities, a similar discussion could be had in regards to the university environment itself, and successful studies increasing employment potential. I would look to explore if elective subjects relating more to a student’s core subjects would be of greater use, if students enjoy the current availability of subjects, or any alternative opinions I would be offered. This research would focus on the themes of subject selection, and the choices students have to make, with an eye towards what they look to get out of their university experience.
Conversations around these kinds of topics are always timely, as students look to get the most out of their time studying, both socially and academically, and hope to come out of their degree having achieved something to ensure a better future. Discussions of purpose and reasoning are always relevant, for those studying to stay on the right path while at university and transitioning into adulthood. It is therefore relevant to many, if not all students, and conversations regarding elective subjects, majors and minors, and double degrees for example will allow for vast amounts of discussion and conversation to get (what I would expect to be) some unique and differing perspectives. All students can relate to the subject selection process, however theirs may be.
A research article has been done in relation to a medical degree, exploring the impact of free-choice electives. It gives a similar message in stating, “Giving students a wide range of choice has been shown to promote interest and enthusiasm in their studies and this has been demonstrated repeatedly to improve quality of learning…” (Daly & Last, 2017). It also discusses “‘In-Programme’ Electives,” that are specific to the faculty in which they are studying. Using the University of Wollongong as an example, we also have faculty-specific electives, but arguably not as relevant to the core subjects of some of the degrees. An aim of this research task would be to gain an understanding of student’s perspectives on this, and if the broader scope that electives cover is better for gaining experience, or hindering the abilities of students to focus on degree-relevant content.
The sources referenced undoubtedly show the presence of conversation regarding student choice and elective subjects at an academic level. The overarching theme of these pieces of writing is the overall usefulness of subjects to students, and their interest in them. This point of focus I believe is an interesting talking point for all university students, as there isn’t one formula for how you fulfill the required number of credit points, and with that comes differing perspectives on what students think may just be the best way of managing your time at university. Electives are fantastic for learning new information, and even skills, but the overall purpose of my research will be to identify if it’s the information and skills we want, and why exactly that is.
Daly, C. & Last, J. 2017, “An analysis of free-choice electives in an undergraduate medical degree”, BMC Medical Education, vol. 17.
Wright, S. 2010, “Course diversity within South Australian secondary schools as a factor of successful transition and retention within Australian universities”, The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 21-n/a.