Fluff – What’s a Light Course?

There was a bit of controversy on the AU Facebook page this week. It is something, I believe, every student does. Though perhaps the wording is what caused a kerfuffle. A student asked for advice on lighter courses to balance out some more demanding courses. As distance education students we balance a lot in our daily lives. Adding a single university course to the mix can fill our spare time, adding two, equally demanding, cuts into essentials, like sleep, or eating somewhere other in front of the computer.

While I understand where both the student and the commenting professor are coming from, it posed an interesting question for me. The way in which we word things can give off a bad impression. It is unlikely that any (or few) university courses are “fluff” or “filler” or simply “GPA boosters”. And, as we shell out the same amount of cash for each course, I find it difficult to believe that students would throw money away on a course they will not take anything away from. Yet, asking in those terms, for course suggestions can be taken that way. This debate made me consider what courses I would recommend to the student looking for “fluff” courses and if they were “fluff” in the way the professor took it; or were they “fluff” in the way I believe the student meant: lighter.

Subsequently the courses I recommended were, English 353: Intermediate Composition and Philosophy 333: Professional Ethics. I considered the implications of my suggestion and came to the conclusion that I was not recommending these courses because they offered little value, or simply acted as an easy “A”. On the contrary, these were courses that I took a lot from; English 353 being one of my favourite courses and one that I took a lot out of; and, Philosophy 333 was a course I enjoyed, one I developed skills from, it was a course I was able to tailor to my interests. These courses were not just filler courses, they taught me a lot and were exceptionally helpful to the rest of my degree and will help me beyond school. So why would I recommend these in response to a request for “fluff”?

The answer, really is simple. For courses that I took so much out of, the reading was considerably lighter than other courses. I dedicated more time to practicing the concepts rather than reading about the concepts or reading literature. When I am taking courses coupled with literature courses, or women’s studies courses these are often very demanding for time: reading novels, or conducting research. It is essential to balance a heavy course with a lighter course. It does not mean the lighter course is less vital, nor does it mean the student it taking it less seriously than the other course. It is a simple time-management plan; proper time-management is essential for students, especially distance education students, to learn quickly.

The debate itself was over the wording of the question. As students we should be aware that our tutors are on these pages and consider the way we are wording questions, or otherwise, as these are connections which could be essential in our future. It can be easy to forget who may be viewing the pages, especially on Facebook where we may feel anonymous and safe behind our keyboards. It can be easy when we are sending a message on the forums to forget who we are talking to. But, a question to ask is, “Would you ask your professor (or boss) these questions in person?” You may not be directing your question to them, but they are likely reading them. If the answer is “no” consider revising.

The idea that how we conduct ourselves on these pages is being viewed by our professors was in the back of my mind. Yet, it was this specific incident that showcased how important it is to bring that to the forefront. That while it is a place to connect with fellow students, it is also a great place to connect with professors. So we should be careful in how we word things. At the end of the debate I believe both sides understood where each other was coming from, and what the intentions were. It did however, make me stop and think?think about what courses I recommended, and how I conduct myself on social media.

Deanna Roney is an AU student who loves adventure in life and literature