Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, Issue 3. 15th March 
Students on the Warpath
Students on the Warpath
Students in Geography 303 took action last week to prevent further confusion of the course's high workload.
At the first lecture of Geography 303 (Latin American geography) students were told that to qualify for terms they would have to complete two seminars, one long essay, three short essays (number of words not stipulated), and have a personal interview with the lecturer.
The long essay would account for 15% of the final mark and total internal assessment would be 30% of the final mark (the other 70% would come from a 3hour examination at the end of the year).
This seemed a peculiar method of assesment and a very heavy workload. With the long essay representing 15% of the final mark and the other five pieces of work must be worth 3% each! Six pieces of work and a final exam is far more than that required by comparable courses in other stage 3, six credit geography courses.
One student questioned the workload - only to be met with the lecturer's comment that as the student wasn't aware of the exact requirements, he couldn't question it (true, the information given was very vague). Another student asked whether student opinion would be considered - the lecturer admitted student opinion was irrelevant.
After the lecture several dissatisfied students decided to call a student meeting. Two students then volunteered to ask the lecturer to devote the next lecture to discussing the workload as this would be the last chance of changing the course requirements. (workloads and means of assessment can't be changed after the second week of term).
The students found to be satisfactory those comments he made that were actually relevant to the workload. When the students pointed out that Georgraphy 301 had a much lighter workload he claimed this was because Geography 301 also included a field trip. This is not relevant because a field trip is compulsory to all students majoring in Geography and as such is just as much part of the Geograpjy 303 course.
Three short essays, he claimed, wouldn't take very long, as he overlooked the fact that it is the research that takes time not writing essays out! Furthermore he told the two students that he had only intended them to do one siminar (he clearly said two at the first lecture). This sort of confusion wouldn't arise if students were given a handout with terms requirements, deadlines, and assessment method clearly outlined.
Nature of Interview
When asked about the nature of the interview, he said it would be marked, would not count for internal assessment, but would be used for university testimonials for those who required them (why then is it compulsory?).
This sort of attitude to students is unsatisfactory. Students have to know exact workload requirements so they can consider their total workload. The heavy workload has prompted several students to consider pulling out of the course, others haven't this coice. As there are only two 6-credit human geography courses offered at stage three level, they are forced to take Geography 303 to complete their degree.
After much confusion, irrelevant questions from anxious students, it was established at Friday's lecture that the workload would be: either a seminar of 12 minutes, or a 1000-word essay, a personal interview, and a 1500-word essay For the First Half of the Course and probably two or three essays for the second half of the course (this couldn't be confirmed because the lecturer responsible is ill).
This was the third time the lecturer had changed his mind! Students don't know whether this was because he hasn't decided himself, or he was not aware that he had changed his mind.
However, other sections of the department are also getting into gear. There is to be a meeting of student representatives and other staff members today in order to look at workload problems in this particular course and other geography courses.
The students in Geography 303 still have nothing in writing, but they have taken steps that could be used an example to students in other courses. If you feel that your course is overworked, or you do not like the method of assessment in your course, Act Now While you can!