course work or coursework

course work or coursework

Exploring the Significance and Impact of Coursework in Higher Education

1. Introduction to Coursework in Higher Education

The Bologna reform reintroduced a significant project element into higher education, a cornerstone of the Bologna Process. On leaving secondary school, the task of incoming students is to fill the gaps in their program through both curricular and extracurricular activities. The key factor in this context is that learning in an undergraduate course is primarily an individual but also a combined personal and study experience. Graduates cannot possess encyclopedic knowledge. The challenges thrown up by the future world of work and now the public are such that the distinctive feature of undergraduates must be assimilating and developing their reservoir of knowledge and skills, all the more through high-level autonomy in choosing which of those competences to bring with them or to acquire through different teaching activities. A required learning outcome is to develop awareness and the need for ongoing lifelong and continuous learning.

One signature feature of higher education in Italy is that it is marked by an entirely undergraduate structure as well as a full-time model of study. Unlike higher education systems in countries like the US, in Italy, the passage from school to university takes place after two additional years of preparation with a preparatory high school (e.g., Liceo or similar), i.e. an institution specifically created to prepare students for higher education. That means that students in an undergraduate study programme are generally older and should be more mature compared to the same students from other countries. Another factor to take into account is that in the Italian educational system, students are organized and ready to learn by the time they reach university.

2. The Role of Coursework in Student Learning and Assessment

The assessment is a critical process in higher education, as it establishes a number of functions. These functions include the need to evaluate students’ performance to ascertain the amount of learning that has taken place. This is important as successful achievement should represent the capabilities of the learners. The storing of accumulated knowledge is evidence of the achievements that can be referred to and also be integrated into a degree classification or other methods of showing enhanced student engagement at the institution. Without controlled assessments, there may be concerns that students are attaining their qualifications without the necessary knowledge and skills. Assessments can also signal the skills and attributes that employers are seeking from students on a course. This aspect requires a course to be transparent in its assessment so that workplace needs are met through course development. The summative assessment measurements require a set of data and evidence to support their findings. It is important for the results to be reliable and valid when making judgments about students. It is also important for the assessments to remain as fair as possible so that all students have an opportunity to achieve the best outcomes permissible that are directly linked to their learning. This is called assessment for learning.

In the academic sphere, coursework may be considered to be a range of activities that are undertaken by students to enhance their learning and aid in the successful achievement of their courses. Put simply, a coursework assessment is usually a formal task that takes place under a controlled environment and within a specific time limit that contributes towards achieving a student’s classification. This can be an assignment, practical exercises or tests. The coursework may be formative, summative or both. Regardless of the nature of the coursework, it is important for the task to promote student learning proportionate to the credit level of the task. This means that the learning outcomes are achieved through a set of activities or tasks and these outcomes have a bearing on the academic status of the student. Furthermore, the summative assessment will contribute towards measuring the extent to which these outcomes have met the expected standards.

3. Innovations and Best Practices in Coursework Design

Library research and simulation were major learning strategies for other criteria that CP designed for the course and made it a valuable experience for participants. Due to the required content about a disease of interest or condition, such as infectious disease, blood physiology, and immune response, library research was carried out through assigned readings. Because the workshops aimed to understand the complete process for blood collection, before a sheep class, a blood demonstration was taught through venipuncture. Due to the small number of animals such as the sheep demonstration, equipment was demonstrated. Library research was the primary learning strategy for subjects such as infectious diseases and blood. Such information was tested in the first informal workshopping opportunity of exploring issues and using blood in teams.

Peer-taught sessions. Most of the professional knowledge needed for project implementation was taught and learned through these sessions in the university and by participants in assessment. A sequence of 5 workshops was used to discuss and learn a record keeping and blood withdrawal task and skill. Each session was a 2 to 3-hour workshop with 15 to 17 participants. At least one person had to attend all five sessions, with a quality assurance assessment across blood collection procedure skills. The assessment was conducted a month after coursework by a licensed laboratory veterinarian while using the short-survey.

In enacting this shift, strategy documents promoted flexible learning spaces for coursework to activate student engagement, support active problem solving, and build community partnerships. Students were viewed by the university as valuable resources in society. The significant value of students being able to collaborate, share a broad range of experiences, and support each other during their journey of learning, in addition to completing the formal curriculum, was promoted as an important aspect of coursework at the university. In the course located at the university, a number of opportunities were designed to develop students’ engagement of implementing various coursework with components integral to blood.

4. Challenges and Solutions in Implementing Effective Coursework

It is unrealistic to expect busy academic staff with full workloads to develop new and innovative coursework programs without extra effort and support. Subject consultants, learning and teaching team leaders, and other relevant faculty staff can help to provide direction and support for staff to develop clearer, more detailed, and refined plans of study. And it is also important to support the ‘leaders’ in a faculty to continue to work with and influence the decisions that are made about how courses are constructed and managed. To be truly effective, coursework should not be viewed as something that the ‘poor cousins’ in a Business School are burdened with – it is both more, and nothing less, than the process through which we facilitate student learning.

As research very well acknowledges, implementing effective coursework can be a real challenge, and students often complain that the coursework they are offered is overly mundane, low quality, and suffers from a crowded curriculum. Some solutions to improving coursework include having a dialogue about effective teaching and learning both at an institutional and a faculty level, strategically considering the alignment between coursework and the overall curriculum so that it receives the same priority as other programs, and providing support via professional development opportunities for faculty to more effectively integrate their teaching with expected learning outcomes.

5. Conclusion: Maximizing the Potential of Coursework for Student Success

Capacities for deep engagement with learning, emotional investment, and meaningfulness in academic skills development often seem to be activated episodically, then wane. Students describe the broader, shaping rhythms of academic semesters as labor punctuated by moments of real excitement and joy. In short, the significant short-term opportunity costs of higher education on the back-end of the problem of less interest in rigorous undergraduate experiences on the front-end. Rather than solely focusing on students as potential sources of gratitude, alumni generosity or economic advantage, prescribers must reconsider motivation and consider the consistent enhancement of students’ active choice to invest in not just the education and opportunities of the scholar, but the everyday student role itself. Regaining the lost luster of the everyday educational experiences is thus also a matter of increased educational effectiveness and graduate potential.

In this chapter, we have reviewed some of what is known – and what still needs to be better understood – about the role that coursework plays in the lives of college and university students. Students report that coursework is the single most meaningful and influential aspect of the undergraduate experience, contributing importantly to both the development of cognitive and analytic skills and to their preparation for careers that follow collegiate study. Moreover, the number of hours students study each week is related to validated exams of critical skills learned in college. But, the extent to which students contend with rigorous demands also seems to constrain the quality of their undergraduate experiences.

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