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Survey Courses

ASU offers certain classes called ‘survey courses’. Generally these are denoted by some abbreviation (like PHS) followed by the number 110. Survey courses are pretty self-descriptive- they’re a survey of whatever subject they’re for. I’ve taken a political science survey course and a physics survey course, for example.

The main reason for them is because of ASU’s general studies requirements. Every student must earn a certain amount of science credits, a certain amount of humanities credits, a certain amount of math and english credits, ¬†a certain amount of social/behaviorial science credits, a certain number of lit. credits, etc, in order to get a degree from ASU. While slightly annoying (I never wanted to take any math ever again) I understand the idea behind this. It forces students to step out of their comfort zone and explore a few subjects they might never have considered, and it also gives you a slightly more well-rounded education for those who planned on just pursuing courses in their degree. (It also insures that you will spend four (or more if you mess something up and have to take extra classes!) years at ASU and thus pay four years worth of tuition, but that’s another issue).

This is largely where the survey courses come in, at least, that’s what I think. A few of the majors require an introductory course as part of the major map, but some of the survey courses seem superfluous to me. For example, ASU offers a PHY 101 and PHY 111, other introductory physics classes worth four credits that have a lab attached, just like the science class I’m in right now (PHS 110-“Fundamentals Physical Science”). The difference is that the survey course is supposedly easier.

Why is that necessary? Everyone in college should have enough of a math background to do the more numerically-based science course that you probably get more worth out of. I admit, I’m guilty of choosing the survey course because I don’t really like science. I just wanted to get it over with. But if I’m going to have to take a science class, I should probably get as much out of it as possible. That’s not to say I’m getting nothing out of the survey course. We’ve discussed a lot of topics, from current and electricity to the universal law of gravitation. It is, however, pretty much exactly like my tenth grade physics course, which is a little sad.

The point is, if ASU is going to make us pay to learn some science, we should be learning as much science as possible. My PHS 110 professor is a funny guy and knows what he’s teaching; I think he’d be perfectly capable of stepping up the level of difficulty and teaching a PHY course, the same material with slightly more detail. ¬†College students should be expected to be able to handle the more complicated work. Offering survey courses is almost insulting our intelligence, yet we take them anyway because we have to get that general studies credit done. I’m not sure if the answer is to get rid of the general studies requirements or to banish all the survey courses that are just the simpler clones of the other science classes. If I decided that I wanted to move on in this field of science, I’d have to take a different introductory PHY course even if it’s practically the same as the one I’m in now. If I for some reason changed my major to physics, what I’ve done already wouldn’t count for anything.

Unfortunately, the kind of decisions necessary to choose good classes largely depend on a student’s forethought, something which college students tend to lack. Meeting with an advisor might help, but only if you know what you want to major in when you go to talk to them. The class list is also impossible to maneuver, because you have to know what you’re looking for before searching it, which completely defeats the purpose of experimenting with what classes to take.

 

TL;DR: A big university like ASU can offer pointless courses and make it really difficult to search their catalogue and understand their system of classes. Also, avoid survey courses if you haven’t yet chosen your major, because they usually don’t count toward any pre-requisites for further study in that field.

 

 



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