Academic life at UBC

Prior to coming to Vancouver, I was informed by previous students that the work load at UBC was easier than at UoM. Throughout the term I’ve discovered that this is the case in some respects, however I have found other areas more challenging causing me to adapt my approach to my studies in order to keep on top of it all. One of the noticeable differences has been the frequency of assignments and exams. Unlike the standard British system, UBC divides modules up into several methods of assessment. I’ve had at least two essays due every week, and without keeping track of everything it can be very easy to get behind. Thankfully, I’ve found that the actual work itself is more straightforward to complete, and the lecturers are more lenient with marking (also helped by reduced pressure of being on a pass/fail year). Although the regularity of assessment has improved my work ethic, one of the downsides to it is students have little time to focus their attention on one piece of work, resulting in work being rushed and preventing me from researching certain topics in depth. That being said, I have heard from my friends taking Science subjects that the work is significantly harder than at Manchester in terms of work load and content, and the level of difficulty varies greatly between courses.

The teaching style at UBC is noticeably different to Manchester. My lecturers here use different methods of teaching aside from PowerPoint presentations to engage with the students. One sociology module I took on Drugs and Society was taught by a lecturer who regularly used class debates and hand-outs to encourage students to gain different perspectives on an issue. Participation grades were also given in all my classes and accounted for 20% of the module. Higher marks were awarded to students who contributed to class discussion and had high attendance, which seemed produce the desired affect as many students were keen to speak in class unlike in my classes in Manchester. I believe the introduction of participation grading is an effective way of making lectures more interesting by motivating students to provide their own argument on a topic.

Methods of assessment are varied compared with the usual term paper or exam. For example, presentations are common, as well as smaller essays that may involve a short summary of a reading. One assignment I received was in the format of a public engagement, which in broad terms meant any piece of work that can be used to promote an issue to a target audience. At the end of the term the lecturer showcased some of the students work which I found very wholesome. I was surprised by the level of creativity used, poems, songs and even a message in a bottle were used captivate the audience. In many ways, I feel assessments such of these are more effective at getting students to critically engage with a topic and incorporate their learning into their everyday lives. After term 1, I’ve found myself talking or reading about what I’ve learned in my free-time which I rarely did last year. Overall, the work load can be stressful at first but once you become used to it, I find it’s easier to complete than at Manchester.

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