When you walk into class on day one of every semester, you generally enter with a preconceived notion of whether or not you’re going to learn anything applicable to your life.
This of course depends on the class itself and how we feel it relates to our career goals and interests. For the ones we gauge as less-than-thrilling, it might be because the subject doesn’t interest us, we’re doing it because it’s required or the information is so boring you have to hold your eyelids open to stay awake.
In all honesty, I’ve been through a class or two where I survived by becoming a memorization machine. I packed it in before tests and let the information slip right out my ears as I filled in the final bubble on the scantron, never to be remembered or thought of again.
It’s not a matter of not caring. It’s just that realistically, we can’t remember everything, and I’ve always felt as though the topics most pertinent to our lives are the ones we retain the most from.
As a management communication major, one of my required courses is communication analysis, which doesn’t exactly sound like something that would make a person want to do backflips from sheer excitement.
But I put on a happy face as I walked into class on the first day. And I was right, in some respects. I won’t lie, it was a trying class – the most difficult I’ve ever taken as NDSU, but I was also wrong because what I learned will carry me throughout the rest of my college life and into the career world.
It started out simple enough. There would be a research paper that we would work on throughout the semester, on top of learning from the textbook “Understanding Communication Research Methods,” by Croucher and Cronn-Mills (2015).
I can write papers, and I’ve written plenty in the past. I love to write. I have a blog, and I’ve written for a number of horse publications. But no one ever said that research papers were easy, and that certainly wasn’t the case with this one. But I learned.
I learned how to pick a good topic. This is more important than you would think because picking a research-worthy topic can mean the difference between frustration and success.
I learned how to write one heck of a background and introduction to the situation today. I learned that having a significant problem to solve and questions to answer through your research helps immensely in guiding your study.
I learned about a literature review and the role it plays in gaining insight on previous research or pertinent information on your own topic. I learned how to perform content analysis, which is essentially a thorough review of different communication mediums through the use of various categories.
I didn’t even know that such a thing as “content analysis” existed before this class, and even though it’s not something most people use every day, we do analyze. Every single day of our lives we observe and categorize and draw conclusions in our brains.
I learned something as simple as the difference between communication and communications- yes, the ‘S’ makes a big difference.
While communication is a human process that involves the exchange of meaning, such as a conversation, communications is a technological interchange of information. Every time you turn on the TV or log into the Internet, you’re using communications.
But most importantly, I learned to push myself, even when the class was tough. Because when you come out on the other side, you have a better understanding of your own mental capabilities. There were days when I didn’t want to do research, and I stared down my laptop like it was a hungry monster ready to eat my brains out.
But the end of the semester has arrived and my brain is still intact, and I’ll move forward knowing two things: Don’t judge a class by your first impression, and never underestimate your ability to try hard. Because regardless of whether you like it or not, you’ll probably learn something.