Taking two university spring courses in one month as a slow reader?
April 19, 2021 9:03 AM   Subscribe

Hi. I am wanting to take two university spring courses online at my university, but I am not sure if it is manageable or doable with the reading course load -- especially since I am aiming for a high mark.

The one course is a second-year politics course with roughly 40 pages per week with seminar forums writing and commenting on students' posts. The other course is a fourth-year politics course with two video seminars for 5 hours per week with either 160 pages per week or 200 pages per week.

I am also a slow reader (learning disability) and need to take my time with academic readings. Would it be best to focus on only the fourth course and just take one? Is it possible to manage two of these courses and get most of the readings done if I am not working? I also want at least an 85 % in both courses.
posted by RearWindow to Education (12 answers total)
If there's a period when you're allowed to drop out of a course without penalty (academic or monetary), it might be worthwhile to sign up for both and see how it goes. Another idea is to find out what the readings are ahead of time and take a look at some of them to see how dense the material is.
posted by wryly at 9:12 AM on April 19 [3 favorites]

You don't mention when the courses start. Is there time to pre-read some of the material? Then you would just have to maybe skim or read a summary to refresh yourself during the actual term.

There's a question here of reading speed, but also of stamina. Like, say your reading speed is such that you could read the 240 pages each week, but you'd have to spend six hours every day reading. The fatigue of that might be too much. It's going to be best if you can have some break time, so think about whether with your reading speed, comprehension, and stamina—how fast you can read, how well you take in what you read, and how long you can sustain that effort—you will also have at least some time off to rest.

When my partner and I are in super-busy phases of life, we find committing to one bit of downtime per day can really help. Many years ago, Star Trek: The Next Generation came on TV every night at 11, and there we'd be, even if we felt like we "needed" to be doing schoolwork.

If there's no major downside to taking only one class, I might encourage you to do that. I live with chronic pain, and, for me, it's better for my well-being to do too little than to do too much, to stay well within my limits rather than pushing them. If you're not overburdened, you also have more of an opportunity to enjoy the class you're taking.
posted by Orlop at 9:15 AM on April 19 [1 favorite]

Can you audit one of the classes or take one pass/fail?
posted by oceano at 9:57 AM on April 19 [1 favorite]

Doing hard things is good. But, signing up for things that you can't actually do is bad. I suspect this is a question only you can answer. Trying it out for a week seems like a good idea if that's an option.
posted by eotvos at 10:09 AM on April 19

I am a college advisor, though not your college advisor, and I would tell you not to do this unless you have to to graduate this term. I say this as someone who’s working full-time and finishing up their dissertation.
posted by joycehealy at 10:45 AM on April 19 [5 favorites]

i just finished up two years of mostly condensed and intense online classes or hybrid classes with a similar amount of pages and hours and a lot of writing involved--it is a lot to deal with. Some strategies I used included always using faster video playback speeds for prerecorded lectures if possible, and supplementing reading with audio versions of anything I could find. Machiavelli as an audio book at 1.5 speed while hiking let me at least go outside for while every weekend when I had too much homework and no life, and all of the classics can be found that way.

Online classes take more work...I'd be wary of doubling up classes instead of trying to do one as a short summer or winter quarter class if allowed, and i'm a fast reader. I'd imagine the pages per week of reading is going to be measured by tests or writing assignments, which will also take more time than you think. I'm graduating a semester after my cohort because I decided to take the last class I needed the next semester, it made things anticlimactic, but was manageable.
posted by th3ph17 at 10:51 AM on April 19

I've always would up regretting my optimism when it comes to these things.
If it's at all possible, do these one at a time and give yourself room to breathe.
posted by trig at 11:09 AM on April 19 [1 favorite]

One way to cheat: text to speech. So you can listen to the stuff while you're doing something else. You will NOT get full comprehension, but it MAY help you retain a bit more when you read it again.
posted by kschang at 11:56 AM on April 19 [1 favorite]

Echoing that online is far more difficult than normal courses. You don't have the same interaction with the teaching staff and fellow students.
As a professor, I spend much more time teaching, and still I can't provide nearly the same support online as I can in class. It is frustrating. I have actually cut down the reading requirements dramatically, but I bet a politics professor wouldn't do that. (I teach engineers, there are calculations and drawings to do as well as text to read).
BTW, I would go for the second year course, because I can see interaction works better online than just reading and lectures.
posted by mumimor at 12:02 PM on April 19

I'm a professor (but not in Politics). I'd say it really depends on what you're expected to do with those 200-240 pgs per week. Many college classes assign more pages than the professor expects students to read closely (or at all). I am not your professor, but if you were in my classroom, all that would matter was that you read enough to make a comment or two in class. You'd then need to be able to go back and maybe pick and choose parts to read closer when it came time to writing a paper. But you could definitely get away without having done all of the reading.

I agree with the suggestion to register if there is a trial period where you can drop the class and get a full refund. That should give you time to get a sense of how much work will actually be expected.
posted by coffeecat at 1:28 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]

An academic advisor or someone in disability support services might be able to advise you knowing the specific instructors/ courses in question.
posted by oceano at 9:29 PM on April 19

Here is a calculator from Rice University that lets you estimate how long it would take an average student to complete assigned work in a college course. You can adjust lots of the variables to see the kind of difference it makes to the timing.
posted by plonkee at 2:46 AM on April 20

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