Eliza: BU’s New Pass/Fail Policy

I registered for my Spring 2017 courses from the café of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, between gapping at great works of art and iconic pieces of Beatle memorabilia (abroad is a weird time).  Somewhere in this art induced, fake intellectual atmosphere I made the choice to fill my last elective of college with Computer Science.

Don’t get me wrong.  Computer science is a great, and important, thing to learn.  But of all the incredible classes I could have taken, both within my majors and outside, I for some reason chose a class that would be completely out of my comfort zone and incredibly time consuming.

As a journalism major, a lot of my work experience has been at online magazines.  And while many of those had their own Content Management Systems, which just allowed me to input copy into nicely laid out boxes, I always noticed that a lot of the other writers were able to do basic trouble-shooting of format errors on their own.  Watching their skills helped me start to learn basic HTML, though I was certainly not trained.

Somewhere during the beginning of my internship in London I realized how marketable of a skill a basic knowledge of HTML coding would be.  That was the reason I chose to take Introduction to Internet Technology, also know as CAS CS103.  This basic level class provides overviews of the different codes and technologies that come up in working with internet programs.

There were definitely moments in the semester where I really started to regret deciding to push myself into this course.  But the value of even gleaning a little familiarity from it was undeniable.  The struggle came as I found this introduction level class pulling down my GPA compared to my other courses — the ones that were asking me to complete tasks more within my comfort zone.

It was around the time of peak panic (also known as right after the first midterm of CS103) that I got an email reminding student’s about BU’s new pass fail policy.  The program can only apply to classes that are not fulfilling some requirement, be it a liberal arts requirement or one for a major or minor.  Lucky for me, that was exactly what computer science was.

The program is meant to allow students to explore other area’s during their academic study without having to be concerned with the detrimental impact these courses could have on their overall GPA.  In my case, I am still receiving the benefit of learning basic things about internet technology from my computer science class, but when I do poorly on an exam or a homework because this sort of thinking is far outside my skill set, it doesn’t have to be something that causes massive stress. I, in turn, can focus more on the learning happening rather than panicking about getting good grades.

Though not all students have the time during their four years to fit in an elective or two, the chance to take these classes for pass-fail credit means a chance to take that class you’ve always wanted to but been to scared too.  Learning upper level statistics, or basic finance, can be something that isn’t going to ruin a GPA, rather it can be a true learning experience for a student looking to broaden their college learning.

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