Course Exam—POLI 307 (Political Ideologies)

POLI 307 (Political Ideologies) is a three-credit, upper-level political science course that surveys the origins and development of modern political ideologies in their historical, cultural, and socio-economic contexts, beginning with the origins of liberalism, followed by responses to it which include capitalism, conservatism, socialism, Marxism, and nationalism.  This course has no prerequisites and offers a challenge for credit option if anyone is interested in taking that route.

Students should be aware that POLI 307 qualifies for a reduced learning resource fee of $130 which covers the cost of mandatory, Athabasca University-produced learning resources, library services, learning management system support, and learning design and development.  All materials for this course are available online.  These materials include a student manual, course information, an electronic textbook, and any required readings.

Political Ideologies is made up of four parts: Ideas to Ideologies, Liberalism in the Long Nineteenth Century, The Age of Mass Ideologies, and Ideological Currents in Our Time.  Within these four parts are thirteen chapters that cover a lot of material, such as liberalism, capitalism, democracy, fascism, nationalism, anti-liberal ideologies, anti-capitalist ideologies, and so much more.  POLI 307 also has four assignments.  The first assignment is based around participation posts and weighs ten percent, the second assignment is research preparation and is worth thirty percent, the third assignment is a research essay weighing thirty percent, and the fourth assignment is a final project that weighs thirty percent.  There are no mid-term or final examinations for this course.  To receive credit for POLI 307, students must obtain a composite course grade of at least a “D”, or fifty percent.

Kayla Konowal enrolled at Athabasca University in July of 2019 in the Bachelor of Arts program, majoring in political science and minoring in philosophy.  She provides an introduction, stating “I am originally from just outside of Hamilton, Ontario.  I am currently living in a city called Mérida which is located in the state of Yucatán in México.  I am not currently working, and  I chose Athabasca University because of the flexibility it provides me.  I am able to enjoy living in México while learning the language, experiencing the culture and wonderful weather, and relaxing – all while still pursuing my educational goals.  University is important to me because my ethnic background is Russian and Ukrainian, and many of my relatives and ancestors did not have the option to attend university largely because of the political and historical conflicts in the 20th century (communism, World War II, and other similar factors).  I want to take advantage of my ability to attend higher education.  In my spare time, I like to read ancient and foreign literature, learn languages (Polish and Spanish), visit historical Mexican buildings and villages, play piano and violin, and collect antiques and coins.”

When asked to explain the course to students, she states that “POLI 307 covers the rise of political ideologies, beginning with classical liberalism and ending with the current political trends in the world today.  The textbook starts by detailing the nature of ideology and an ideology’s adherents, and goes on to cover the dominant political and socio-economic systems that preceded capitalism and classical liberalism.  It then goes on to discuss liberalism, capitalism, and democracy, and this second section of the textbook also covers anti-liberal and anti-capitalist ideologies, as well as the nature of nationalism and its influence on various ideological positions.  The third part of the textbook discusses contemporary liberalism and democracy, as well as socialism, Marxism and Leninism, Fascism and National Socialism, and ideologies that have been tested in other parts of the world, such as in Africa and the Middle East.  The fourth and final section of the textbook elaborates upon the current ideologies at play in the world, such as environmentalism, feminism, indigenous movements, and postmodernism.”

As for the structure of the course, Kayla explains that the “The first assignment consists of two participation posts in which the student must write one paragraph of up to 200 words explaining what he or she found most surprising, puzzling, or problematic in the study of early liberalism.  The paragraph is then posted in a discussion forum.  In the second paragraph, the student must elaborate upon, question, or challenge the post that another student has made.  Each of the posts is worth 5%, meaning that the whole assignment is worth 10% of the student’s grade.”

She continues, “The second assignment consists of a 1250-1500-word essay worth 30% of the student’s final grade.  The student must select an ideologist from the list provided in the course, and then research and write an essay that outlines and analyzes what brought the ideologist to form his or her ideological beliefs.  For instance, one might touch on the relevance of an event in the ideologist’s life that influenced the ideologist to adopt nationalist tendencies.  The assignment must also touch on the relevance of liberalism, capitalism, socialism, and nationalism, if possible.  My tutor was more lenient about this, and advised me to focus the essay on what influenced the ideologist to adopt his or her ideological position.”

“The third assignment was similar to the previous and consisted of a 2000-2500-word essay worth 30% of the final grade.  Using the same ideologist as the previous assignment, the student must avoid being descriptive and aim for an analytical approach while explaining what the ideologist contributed to the development of his or her ideological stream.  For instance, perhaps the ideologist implemented a specific idea that had never been thought of or implemented before.”

Kayla explains the fourth assignment, stating “Assignment four consists of 3 choices and the student must select one of the choices.  Each is worth the final 30% of the student’s final grade:

The first involves identifying 4 important concepts that were studied in the course, 4 ideologists and 4 ideological publications relevant to those concepts, and an explanation regarding how those concepts are relevant to the ideologists.  Then, the student must have a telephone call with his or her tutor to discuss what was written and elaborate upon it.  The telephone conversation is not a presentation of what was written; it must elaborate upon it.  All marks are awarded based solely on the telephone presentation.

The second choice involves a 2000-2500-word essay and involves analyzing four ideologies using four criteria.  The essay must cover the course and use 5-10 primary sources.

The third choice consists of an essay of 2000-2500 words that allows the student to elaborate upon why he or she feels that the textbook has not remained objective throughout the course (and has therefore been ideologically biased).  There must be at least 5 scholarly articles that support the claims the student makes.”

Kayla would recommend this course to other students, however, she says to “keep in mind that the textbook does not always elaborate in great detail about certain ideological positions and you may need to do some of your own research to feel truly fulfilled with your learning.  For example, I did not feel that the chapter on Fascism and National Socialism (Nazism) gave me a good understanding of what the actual ideological beliefs of people who hold/held these views are.”

As for tips and tricks to completing the course, she states “I would recommend trying to avoid being descriptive because the tutors and the course assignments stress the need to be “analytical”.  I found it difficult to understand what was meant by analytical, so make sure to contact your tutor and the course coordinator for further clarification.”

When asked how communication with her tutor was, she explains that “The tutor provided some feedback and marked relatively quickly, within 5-7 days.  My tutor responded quickly to my emails, but I did not always feel that the comments were helpful.  Sometimes the feedback was unclear, or I felt that more was needed.  At times, I was disappointed with the level of support I received and I would recommend contacting the course coordinator for further clarification or to switch tutors if you run into similar problems as I did.”

Whether POLI 307 is a degree or program requirement of yours, or if the topics mentioned above are of interest to you, this course will have you learning a lot of interesting material surrounding the topic of political ideologies.