Classes have now been in session for three weeks, and along with the general Aussie atmosphere, everything is very laid back. Everyone knows that on the first day of classes there is never a lecture, the professor goes over what is expected from the class for the semester and they hand out a syllabus. All that happens here, but there are a few notable differences.
For my first class I walked in and was passed a mini-booklet containing the course content, a week-by-week schedule of each lecture, required readings for each week, and expectations for the coming essay, presentation, and final. The professor went through the mini-booklet for about ten minutes and then began lecturing on the material for the week. I wish I could say it was only this class, but it happened in every class. However, all of it was introductory material and most classes were only meeting once for the first week. It was understandable they wanted to get the ball rolling.
One of several huge differences from SNC to Murdoch is what makes up a grade. There is only one final exam in pretty much every class, worth approximately 60% of the grade. The other 40% is made up from either a presentation or essay, and sometimes both. I’m very used to having an exam within the next month or two of classes starting, but not four months later. This has taken some getting used to, but the professors do a very good job of keeping students on task for the week by assigning questions to do on their own time and not turn in. They make sure students know it is in their best interest to complete these questions to stay on task and ahead of the game when it comes time for the final.
Another key difference from classes here to classes back at SNC: they record EVERY lecture. Not only that, they put up the entire powerpoint to accompany the recorded lecture. Murdoch has a large student body who can take classes online while never coming to school, these guys are call external student. These lectures and powerpoints are put online for them, because of this internal students (those who attend classes) benefit greatly by having lectures available to them whenever.
The last difference worth bringing up is the grading scale here. Murdoch doesn’t have an actual letter grade, they have the following: Pass (50-59%), Credit (60-69%), Distinction (70-79%), High Distinction (80-100%) . A 50-59% is considered a “C” here. Not sure if this is any reflection on how difficult classes are here, but I don’t think classes are all that bad. Plus, for one of my final exams it’s open book. So all is not lost.
Cassie Brayton is studying abroad at Murdoch University in Australia.