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  • Arnest Lim

CHS Common Curriculum Course Reviews (Part 1) - HSI1000, HSS1000, DTK1234, HS1401A

Updated: Aug 31, 2023


As the "guinea pig" batch of students from the College of Humanities and Sciences (CHS), starting the semester pre-allocated with 3 or 4 brand spanking new Common Curriculum courses was tough. The fact that they were split into Common Core, Integrated Courses and Interdisciplinary Courses, and had no precedents made navigating through these uncharted waters a feat.


To lessen that uncertainty for both current CHS Year 1s who have yet to read the following courses as well as future intakes, here's Part 1 of my CHS Common Curriculum review. Whether you're from FASS or FoS, strap in as I take you on an exploration of the road ahead.


Disclaimer: All of the following courses were taken in AY 21/22 Sem 1 and the structures of these courses MAY BE DIFFERENT in subsequent sems. All views expressed in this article are my own so please only take this review as an unofficial guide. More detailed information can be found in the links at the bottom of this article.


HSI1000 - How Science Works, Why Science Works

Lecturers: Prof Ryan Bettens, Prof Adrian Lee, N. Sivasothi

Tutor: Dr. Ng Yee Hong

Lab Teaching Assistant: Kamalakannan Raja

TLDR: Scientific inquiry in its most basic form.


Description of course

  • The first "Scientific Inquiry" Integrated Course, HSI1000 aims to help answer the burning questions of "how" and "why science works".

  • Lectures will cover and apply the basics of the scientific method to the real world crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.

  • Tutorials (aka Workshops) are 3 hours long every 4 weeks and are held on campus, but don't be daunted by the long duration. Time flies when you discuss modern science and our planet's biggest environmental issues.

  • Students must attend a 4-hour on campus Lab (Exploratorium) session once (changed to two 3-hour sessions in Sem 2) throughout the entire semester and conduct simple experiments that reintroduce basic scientific concepts.

  • Alternative courses:

  1. University Scholars Programme (USP) students - USP-Sciences and Technologies courses

  2. NUS College (NUSC) students - NSS2001 (Science and Society)

  3. Special Programme in Science (SPS) students - SP2274 (Engineering a Life-like Cell)

  4. CHS-College of Design and Engineering Double Degree Programme (CHS-CDE DDP) students - CDE2501 (Liveable Cities)

Assessment

  • 9 Weekly Online Quizzes + 1 End-of-Sem Survey (10%)

  • Exploratorium Exercise (10%)

  • 3 Workshop Exercises (30%)

  • 3 Online Tests (50%)

Pros

Most lectures are pre-recorded and broken down into relatively short videos, perfect if you're not into attending live lectures. But for those who find learning from videos ineffective, fret not. The lecturers have placed a lot of effort into their recordings, making them very engaging.


Workshops also proved useful by wrapping up each segment of the curriculum and making sure we understood what we were learning. Being held in-person was another huge bonus. Even though this is a "science" course, it focuses more on research methods and doesn't get too science-heavy, making the course "FASS-friendly" as well.


The content for this course is very relevant to current society and the teaching team are very passionate about the curriculum, which goes a long way in motivating students.


Cons

Although the course is generally well-structured, the concepts covered in the 3 different segments could be better linked to one another. There was some connection but for the most part it felt like what we were learning didn't really "cross streams" within the course itself.


Personal thoughts

As a consistently weak science student, I was understandably worried about undertaking this course. So I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed HSI1000. One of my favourite parts of this course required us to embark on "field trips" to one of Singapore's many nature reserves and parks, a great way for students to take a break from our screens, destress and get in touch with nature.


It also helps that the assessments are quite straightforward and simple, so students should be able to complete them fairly easily. Personally, I find the pace of this course quite chill and even if you're not science-inclined like yours truly, HSI1000 is accessible for all.


HSS1000 - Understanding Social Complexity

Lecturers: Prof Daniel Goh, Dr. Georgios Georgiou, Dr. Rebecca Tan, Dr. Nina Powell, Dr. Elaine Tan, Prof Brenda Yeoh (guest), Prof Audrey Yue (guest), Dr. Alicia Pon (guest)

Tutor: Wan Pan Ling

TLDR: Social sciences ARE NOT the humanities.


Description of course

  • HSS1000 is the self-explanatory "Social Sciences" Integrated Course that also fulfills the General Education (GE) Singapore Studies pillar.

  • Lectures cover concepts across different social science fields and how they form an interdisciplinary web of social complexity.

  • Biweekly tutorials are 2 hours long and held online (changed to 1 hour weekly from weeks 3-13 and held on campus in Sem 2), serving as platforms for students to discuss lecture content.

  • Students from the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Cross-Disciplinary Programme (PPE-XDP) are exempted from this course.

  • Alternative courses:

  1. USP students - approved USP-Singapore Studies courses

  2. NUSC students - NSW2001 (Understanding the Social World: Singapore & Beyond)

Assessment

  • 10 Weekly Quizzes (60%)

  • In-Tutorial Participation (15%)

  • Group Presentation (10%)

  • Post-Tutorial Engagement (15%)

Pros

This course provides students with a sneak peek of social science concepts, potentially cultivating an interest in the social sciences. As an intricate part of our society, it's important for us to understand the social sciences to some extent so this course proves useful in that capacity.


Tutorials and post-tutorial engagement gave students a chance to share their insights on the lecture content, allowing for healthy discussion amongst peers.


Cons

Unfortunately, each field of social science encompasses a deep area of study, with entire majors dedicated to them. HSS1000's surface level coverage of concepts causes the curriculum to feel disorganised.


The lack of smooth transitions between lecture topics made it even more difficult to grasp the already complex content. Given this course's multidisciplinary nature, learning could be made more conducive if the curriculum was better structured and organised.


I also think that the course is far more "FASS-biased" and has very little relevance to the FoS majors. To quote my groupmate (a Pharmaceutical Science major), "the only thing relevant to my major in HSS is the word 'science'".


Personal thoughts

I can get behind the idea of HSS1000. Even though I felt that a good amount of the course didn't apply to my major, some of the concepts taught were interesting to mull over and helped to cultivate my critical thinking. A course like this encourages discussion and that has certainly helped me better understand what's being taught. Hopefully in future semesters, changes can be made to the curriculum such that content flows better from lecture to lecture.


DTK1234 - Design Thinking

Lecturers: Prof Hans Tan, Donn Koh, Dr. Lee Jung-joo, Dr. Clement Zheng, Prof R. Brian Stone

Tutor: Lian Hai Guang

TLDR: How design can be used to solve problems creatively.


Description of course

  • A Common Core Course, DTK1234 introduces design principles and provides a framework for students to engage in people-centered design thinking.

  • In place of lectures, pre-recorded videos open our eyes to how design can be used to help others. These videos also act as a guide for completing our Individual Learning Activities (ILAs), which allow us to put what we've learnt into practice.

  • Biweekly tutorials are 2 hours long and mostly held on campus, with some online slots (all tutorials will be held on campus in Sem 2).

  • Fun fact: this is also a Common Curriculum course in the newly implemented College of Design and Engineering, so don't be surprised if your tutorial-mates hail from those faculties!

Assessment

  • 5 ILAs (45%)

  • 5 Team-Based Workshops (TBWs) (40%)

  • Final Video Reflection Submission (15%)

Pros

The biggest plus point about this course is the presence of in-person tutorials, something that works tremendously well for a hands-on design-related curriculum as many activities required a lot of discussion. This made learning far more engaging and infinitely less awkward.


Although tutorials are fast-paced, they're fun and give students an opportunity to explore their creative side. Even though I'm very much NOT design-inclined, I had a pretty good time participating in tutorials.


Cons

I found this course unbelievably laborious. The first ILA alone required students to pore over 9 or 10 videos (some of which were 40 minutes long) and it was very time-consuming. Even though students were given 2 weeks to complete each ILA, it was still quite painful to slog through.


As a design-based course, assessments were also very subjective, making it difficult for students to score, especially if design isn't their forte.


Personal thoughts

DTK1234 often made me question whether I didn't understand the content or I was simply just not creative. Granted, there will be more design-inclined students (and these people will enjoy the course more or perform better). I'm not one of them so I found the course very tedious and I struggled throughout.


That said, I think one way to make this course more enjoyable is to not approach it clinically or technically. Design is about constant trial and error, so don't go into this course expecting there to be a model or right answer. Let your creativity run wild and I think you'll still be able to find that DTK1234 can be a fun process.


HS1401A - Career Compass I

Coordinators: Beatrice Tan, Lee Chau Woon

Career Advisor: Kong Kum-Hoong

TLDR: Your first foray as an NUS student into early career exploration and planning.


Description of course

  • Part of the newly implemented Career Compass Series, HS1401A briefly introduces the future of work and provides the direction for students to build essential core skills and succeed at internships.

  • Topics covered include increasing self-efficacy and strategic career planning with the help of readily available resources.

  • Alternative courses:

  1. FoS Students - HS1401S (exact same content but under a different course code)

Assessment

  • Certain activities must be completed to receive a Completed Satisfactorily or Unsatisfactorily (CS/CU) grade, which won't be reflected in your transcripts.

  • Mandatory activities include creating NUS TalentConnect and conNectUS accounts, as well as completing a Personal Career Plan.

  • Pick and choose from various optional activities to fulfill the rest of this course's requirements. Alternatively, taking the 2 units CFG1002 (Career Catalyst) coursewill also suffice.

Pros

As a non-credit bearing course that runs over the full AY, HS1401A is quite "low effort" and students can choose to spread out their activities over both semesters. Of course, this course's requirements can also be completed in Semester 1 if students want one less thing to worry about the next semester.


This course provides a good introduction to NUS' many career-related resources and the optional activities that students can choose from are generally helpful in career planning. For clueless Year 1s, HS1401A is a good launch point for exploring career opportunities.


Cons

N/A


Personal thoughts

Frankly speaking, HS1401A was just there in the background of my first semester and I fulfilled all requirements as quickly as possible. Although I did the bare minimum just to complete this course, I genuinely think it's quite useful. There were various Employer Sharing Sessions and Recruitment Talks organised for students and honestly, without HS1401A I might not even have attended said activities.


It's hard for me to come up with cons for this course because it really isn't very significant. At the same time, it's definitely a good tool for students to get in touch with NUS' career-related resources.

 


The Common Curriculum is something all CHS students will inevitably face off against. Arts students slogging through the dreaded sciences that we had long forsaken? Science students suffering because of the subjectivity of the arts? Oh, the humanity. Though some might consider taking courses that we deem "irrelevant" to our own majors as annoying, interdisciplinary education is here to stay.


While some of these courses come off as clunky and disorganised, be reminded that this is only the first time that any of them have been conducted. The respective teaching teams are still very much working out the kinks and we students need to work together with them to enrich our learning experience as much as possible.


Don't let these courses get the best of you and together, we can gain a newfound appreciation for the wide learning opportunities we've been presented.


For more information, please access the following links-




Career Compass Courses: https://fass.nus.edu.sg/career-compass-series/overview-of-courses/



NUSC Courses: https://nuscollege.nus.edu.sg/learn/



CHS-CDE DDP Courses: https://www.science.nus.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/CHS-CDE-Common-Curriculum-Mappings.pdf

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