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The How-To Guide for Nontraditional Classes

Unfortunately, it is almost guaranteed that you will be forced to take a “non-traditional” class during your time at college. While there are definitely worse things you will encounter during your college career, I have found that much of the work that you are made to do is simply over the top.

To begin with, the lack of organization (or the convoluted nature of the organization) of many “non-traditional learning experiences” can make it very difficult to keep track of grades. Receiving seemingly arbitrary scores on unclear assignments (don’t even get me started on the assignments), is not a great way to understand how you are doing, especially when the grades are not “based solely on classwork but on participation as well”. Grades based on the seeming whimsy of the Professor, is a stress that I do not need in my life. Please just post grades on Canvas, don’t wait until the end of the semester!! I have been in a class with a structure like this, and although, I was very invested in learning the material, my classmates and I did not know our final grades in the class until after finals when professors were required to post grades. I understand that professors are busy, but I don’t think it is too much to ask that grades are posted regularly, or that at the very least a progress report is given out to let you know your standing during the semester.

No matter how interesting a class is, poor organization (as is often found in “non-traditional” classes) is something that can take away a lot of the excitement. While this situation is extremely irritating, there is not much you can do, although you can always ask to meet with your professor privately to discuss grades. Although some professors are not known for their organizational skills, they also generally do not want you to fail, and will be happy to discuss your overall progress during the class.

Another short-coming I have found with “non-traditional” learning experiences, is the strange and creative way many of these classes tend to approach subjects. You can’t just have a seminar class where you read the texts, discuss them, and write papers, of course not! Instead, you must play a convoluted game with unclear rules where much is left up to your classmates. While something like a game, is definitely creative, and could be fun in the right context, it starts to feel a bit patronizing, like you have been removed from college and returned to your fourth-grade states’ history class.

The extra credit opportunities in the class will definitely bring you back to elementary school, when dressing up for a skit was less irritating than during one of your four classes of the day. I don’t mean to be overly critical, the game itself is not what is truly challenging about these types of classes. No, the thing you need to wary of, is your fellow classmates. There are people who take everything WAY too seriously and try to make your life more difficult; it’s not fun when your classmates have the ability to keep you from giving a speech that you prepared beforehand, and that is a required part of your grade. Additionally, if you have the misfortune to be placed within a cohort that already knows each other, outside drama played out within the context of the class will be a fun challenge.


In order cope with the nonsense, the key is just trying to have as much fun as possible and to stay away from personal drama. While it will definitely not be fun all the time, watching your classmates lose their touch on reality (as is specifically warned against in the textbook!), as well as “choosing your own adventure” can definitely be amusing.

While there is no doubt that there are many hoops to jump through in order to complete a non-traditional class, it is also true that you will find it being fun in the most unexpected ways. It’s definitely a learning experience you will never forget, and will tell stories about for years to come.

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