Empowering Education: How Student-Proposed Courses and Pop Culture Integration are Transforming the Learning Landscape
In today's ever-evolving landscape of higher education, institutions are increasingly recognizing the importance of engaging and relevant coursework that not only enriches the minds of their students but also reflects the cultural currents of our time. College students can now discover the harmony between academia and pop culture, where they’re not just consumers but active contributors to the academic discourse.
A new wave of innovation is sweeping across campuses, one that empowers college students to propose and shape courses related to their favorite pop artists. This exciting approach not only fosters a deeper connection between academia and popular culture but also underscores the significance of student agency in curriculum development. In this article, we delve into the transformative power of this educational paradigm shift, exploring how it's inspiring students to explore their passions, encouraging critical thinking, and redefining the boundaries of traditional learning.
In the midst of the covid-19 pandemic, Rowan University professors Amy Reed and Jason Luther decided to plan a course proposal contest that would allow students to suggest electives they were interested in learning about. Reed shares that, “The course was proposed by Dr. Jason Luther as a way of promoting our programs to students outside of Writing Arts.” Reed, who is an associate professor, teaches in the technical writing concentration and health science communication program. She’s worked at Rowan University for ten years, and was the undergraduate coordinator for the Writing Arts department during the time of the contest.
Luther stated, “Over 50 students pitched us something using a google form. We also worked hard to get this response, asking instructors to add a module about it in their courses in Canvas and blasting list surveys across campus.” There was one winner of the contest, however, Luthor added, “I know we were going to keep running these contests but the committee that took this on was very busy in 2021-2023.” Reed stated that the winning course was on writing about difference, and was actually separately proposed by two non-writing arts students.
After the first competition, it was never held again. Reed said, “While I thought the contest was a great idea, it did not work out in practice. We ended up not being able to offer the winning course because when it came time to register, not enough students signed up for it. This was disappointing to us and a major reason why we did not run a course contest a second time.” One might wonder if it’s because student proposed courses wouldn’t align with the curriculum or reputation of the college itself. However, there are many benefits towards allowing students to suggest their own college courses.
Student-proposed courses can significantly enhance a college student's learning experience by providing personalization, relevance, and empowerment in their education. These courses enable students to pursue their specific interests, ensuring the curriculum remains up-to-date with emerging trends and diverse perspectives. They encourage interdisciplinary learning, offer career preparation, foster innovation, and promote active participation, problem-solving, leadership, and communication skills. By involving students in the course proposal process, colleges empower them to take ownership of their education, leading to greater engagement, motivation, and a deeper connection to their academic journey.
Integrating pop culture into education can further enrich a college student's learning experience. By allowing students to explore the intersection of popular culture with academic disciplines, colleges and universities can tap into the power of students' interests and the societal relevance of pop culture. This integration can make the learning process more relatable and engaging, as it connects academic content with the everyday experiences and interests of students. It also promotes critical thinking and analytical skills, encouraging students to evaluate and analyze cultural phenomena, media, and entertainment through an academic lens. Moreover, this approach can spark discussions on social issues, diversity, and representation, as pop culture often reflects and influences these aspects of society. As a result, the integration of pop culture into student-proposed courses not only aligns education with contemporary interests but also enhances critical thinking, creativity, and the application of academic knowledge in the real world.
Reed was initially excited about the competition to help students verbalize their ideas and concepts. Reed stated, “We wanted to involve students in the process of designing curriculum and to learn more about what students were excited to learn about.” Rowan does offer a class titled ‘Writing About Popular Culture’ that is taught by professor Luther.
Despite the challenges encountered in the initial attempt at hosting a course proposal contest at Rowan University, there are compelling reasons for the institution to consider conducting another contest. The experience of the first contest provided valuable insights into the dynamics of student involvement in curriculum development, and it demonstrated the eagerness of students to contribute to the academic discourse. Hosting another contest could allow Rowan to build upon the lessons learned, refine the contest structure, and address previous obstacles.
It offers an opportunity to further engage students in the process of shaping their education, providing them with a sense of ownership and empowering them to express their ideas and concepts. By persisting in this endeavor, Rowan can foster a culture of innovation and collaboration between students and faculty, ultimately enhancing the educational experience and ensuring that the curriculum remains relevant and responsive to the ever-evolving needs and interests of its diverse student body.
It’s unclear what the next steps to establishing a new course contest are, but many students are eager to suggest topics of interest. Senior communications major, Serena Klun, says, “I think that student suggested courses could be a great way to encourage student engagement.” When asked if she had any ideas for a new course, she said, “I would suggest a course focused on propaganda and its impact on crisis communication.” Klun is passionate about her major, but she feels as if she’s missing out on academic flexibility because of required courses. If there were several major courses deviating from the harrowing required major classes, Klun believes there would be more student engagement and discussion.