At the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), students have the option to create and lead courses on topics of their own choosing.
The university currently has more than 200 student-led courses, spanning 60 departments. Though they aren't officially graded, they do count for one or two credits.
The courses at UC Berkeley fall under the school's Democratic Education at Cal (DeCal) program, which started about 50 years ago as a result of the school's free speech movement.
Topics are wide-ranging and have included:
- Relationships as seen through the lens of "Modern Family";
- Political strategy in "Game of Thrones";
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter;
- Secrets of the Rubik's Cube;
- The art of lion dancing;
- Mass incarceration;
- Human trafficking;
- Korean recitation;
- Human genetics;
- Christian thought;
- Cognitive Karate;
- Sufi meditation;
- 3-D bioprinting;
- Stem cells;
- Baking; and
Nearly 4,000 students enroll in the courses each semester.
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For the organizing student, preparation can be extensive. Creating the curriculum takes months, and each course must have a faculty sponsor.
But the effort is worth it to the students, who are not only invested in the topic, but also grateful for the opportunity to grow personally. "I was so excited by the class because it offered me leadership experience and helped me believe in myself," says one student who designed a course.
Other schools that offer similar student-created courses include:
- The University of California, Los Angeles;
- Stanford University; and
- Tufts University.
(Watanabe, Los Angeles Times, 1/3).
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