The Debate on Bird Courses

You’re probably thinking, omg Virginia, please stop writing about school.  Tell me there’s more in your life.  There isn’t, but my brain has very helpfully prepared itself for finals season by shutting down and responding only to school related topics.  It’s a bleak life.  Anyways, since first semester is almost over, people have already started talking about second semester courses (how is this possible, I just finished midterms).  And as a result, you’ll hear the term “bird course” being thrown around quite a lot. “Bird courses” are essentially easy courses known to give out “free marks” – minimal effort for maximum return.  Sounds great right?  Who doesn’t want a high GPA?  But like every topic of conversation, there’s always more than one opinion.  On one hand there are those who encourage taking bird courses, while others see bird courses as a waste of time and money.

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This is what happens when you Google Image “bird courses.”  If someone could tell me the origin of this term, I will personally send you another bird photo as thanks.

Bird courses are enticing because we constantly feel pressured to maintain a high average.  In this number-heavy world, that GPA is the line between pass or fail, of open or closed opportunities.  University students are already busy enough as it is trying to juggle all their compulsory courses, so if presented with a stress free, GPA-boosting elective, it’s difficult to say no.  A bad GPA can add a lot of stress, so having at least one course that guarantees decent marks can help a student stay positive and hopeful.

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The other side of the debate however, would argue that while “bird courses” are objectively easier, it doesn’t mean the mark is guaranteed.  Interest, they say, has more of an impact on mark than the easiness of the course.  For example, every year there are people who hate Math but still insist on taking Math1228 because they heard it was easy.  Nevertheless, people fail that course every year.  If a course doesn’t suit your strengths or your interests, you’ll probably find that the course ends up being more trouble than it’s worth.  Some of my friends who take the well-known bird course, CompSci 1033, are spending more time and effort stressing over it than some of their compulsory courses.  Also, it’s no secret it’s a waste of time taking a course you don’t care about.  With all the interesting courses you can take at Western, why settle with paying thousands of dollars to force yourself to learn basic probability or Photoshop?

All in all, there are a lot of factors you should consider when choosing courses besides level of easiness. If your goal is to improve your mark, don’t just pay attention to the courses that are deemed “bird courses.”   Think about your strengths and interests and whether the course is something you’d feel motivated to study.  Choose wisely and try to get the most out of your time here at Western!

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