Speculative design and curriculum development: Using worldbuilding to imagine a new major in a post-course era.
Randy Bass, Executive Director of Georgetown’s Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship, recently made the provocative claim that we inhabit a “post-course era.” Building on the findings of the National Survey of Student Engagement that show that the places in which undergraduate students demonstrate the highest degree of engagement is in areas outside the traditional curriculum and its courses, Bass suggests that we not merely try to enrich the formal curriculum, but that we also consider supporting and augmenting activities in the “extra” curriculum. We can thereby create opportunities for learning within informal as well as formal settings. In the process of developing a new BA degree within the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California dedicated to Media Arts and Practice—a major that is designed to support students interested not just in media literacy but also in media expertise and the ability to communicate powerfully through diverse media forms—we wanted to imagine a major for the post-course era: a major without courses, traditional assignments, and expected modes of assessment. This essay explores the design challenge posed in trying to imagine such a major, and offers a speculative degree proposal for the post-course era.