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Athabasca University

Project Courses: A Tutorial


SpidogramAs I go through my story, you'll find these pages to accompany the narrative. Here I'll attempt to point out the most useful ideas and tools that I used. Perhaps they'll be useful to you too. Please feel free to modify, revise or completely invent your own pathways. That's the exciting part of the journey.

In considering how Independent Study courses and/or directed reading courses could work for you, it may be helpful to start with some brainstorming exercises about possible project ideas.

Make Lists or Word Pictures. I'm a list person so this worked for me, but if you are more visual - make pictures; different pieces of coloured paper, felt pens, whatever helps you to examine what it is that you already know. Make a list of:

  • Skills you already have.
  • Workshops you've taken.
  • The things you've dreamed of doing.
  • All the things you want to do before you die. I'm serious. Really! Just because you list it, doesn't mean that you have to complete it.
  • Brainstorm without limitations - free up your inner voice and let yourself imagine possible and not so possible futures.
  • Complete the following - When I was a child I wanted to _______ when I grew up.
  • Come up with a list of anything you currently aspire or once aspired to do. There are no rules about this, only that you try and let the little voice of limitation in your head take a break. Don't censure or skip something because is sounds silly now. Write down ALL your ideas, dreams, fantasies, and almost forgotten aspirations. Follow each thought as far as you can. You don't actually have to do them, but only to think them through consciously.
  • Get a big piece of paper and look at every possibility of what you could do with the rest of your life. Use bubble charts or cluster drawings to examine fully the possible and the impossible before limiting yourself to anything.

Look in the Closet:

  • Look at old resumes, and newspaper cuttings of things you've been involved in.
  • Go through the old box or boxes you have that will give you ideas about skills you have, ideas you had, or forgotten dreams that are packed away.

The thing about project courses is that lots of the work has to be done up front. Picking a project, and then designing a course around it, is as meaningful as you make it. Lots of the work is about getting your ideas together and focusing on an attainable goal. The structure of Independent Study courses guides you to get progressively more specific in your inquiry. What is it you want to accomplish or learn? Cast your net as widely as you can, right from the start.

Updated February 18 2016 by Student & Academic Services

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