I have been very fortunate to have had mostly positive experiences with courses/instructors as a student. There was one particular advanced course I took that was focused on independent learning through assigned readings. At the end of the course we (the students) needed to select one topic from the readings, write a critical review on it and give an accompanying oral presentation of our review. In addition to that, there was a hefty participation mark that was based on class discussion of the weekly readings.
I was really excited about this course because the overall topic was so interesting to me, but the amount of reading we were assigned each week was huge. It was a struggle to get through it all while balancing other courses and work responsibilities, and there were several weeks where I just couldn’t manage to read everything in the detail I would have liked to. Many students dropped this course, which ended up increasing the pressure on those of us that stayed to complete the readings as best we could so that we could have meaningful weekly discussions and try to get a decent participation mark. It also ended up being difficult to select a theme to write and present on, because: a) there was so much to choose from, and b) some themes were more complex/controversial and would have required more time to think/write about than something more straightforward. While personally I would have preferred to choose something more complex, I ended up picking something pretty straightforward so that it would be feasible for me to complete the readings/assignments in time.
While this class was interesting, ultimately I didn’t get out of it what I wanted. I wasn’t able to spend more time with the material that interested me the most. I do like the way the course was structured, but I think students would have gotten more out of it if the readings had been more manageable. This probably means that the course would have covered less material overall, but I think that would have been an appropriate trade-off. Another option could have been for the final assignment to have been modified to something that would have been quicker to produce, like a personal reflection of the course.